March 12, 7:39
GORNO-ALTAISK, September 20 (Itar-Tass) —— The ancient mummy of a mysterious young woman, known as the Ukok Princess or the Princess of Altai, has finally returned home to the Altai Republic, after about 20 years spent at the Novosibirsk-based research institute.
The mummy, an object of worship for the indigenous Altai people, was taken on Thursday to Gorno-Altaisk by a helicopter. It was accompanied by regional minister of culture Vladimir Konchayev and welcomed by Altai Republic first deputy premier Yuri Antaradonov, lawmakers, journalists and general public.
After a brief welcoming ceremony, the 25-century-old Princess of Altai was taken Altai Republic National Museum where she will be put on display. The official opening of the museum is planned for September 26.
The mummy was excavated in 1993 along with six saddled and bridled horses from the frozen earth of Altai's Ukok plateau near the border with Mongolia. The mummy has since been sent to the Archaeological and Ethnographic Institute of Novosibirsk, where it was studied by researchers.
Nothing is known of her actual history, but DNA tests and the reconstruction of her face indicate she was of European, not Asian, origin. Found on the borders of China and Mongolia, she was initially thought to have been of Scythian extraction.
In June 2006, archaeologists Vyacheslav Molodin, the first deputy chairman of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Natalya Polosmak, a chief researcher of Novosibirsk’s Archaeological and Ethnographic Institute, won a Russian State Prize for this precious find.
The Altai people believe the Princess was the ancestress of the humankind. Ever since she was discovered they have insisted she should be brought back to her homeland, Altai.
Siberian researchers objected to her return to Altai saying there were no special conditions to keep the mummy intact, which forced the Altai authorities to overhaul the National Museum. A total of 742 million roubles came to finance the project from Russia’s national gas utility Gazprom. Under the project, a special mausoleum was built in a form of a burial mound to hold the sarcophagus with the mummy. The mausoleum has all the equipment necessary to keep the proper temperature, humidity and ventilation regime.
Moreover, it is planned to build a ritual facility Bai Tash (Altai’s Golden Gates) at the administrative border of the Altai Republic on the M-52 federal highway. The monument will feature the sacred Bai Tash stone from the Ukok plateau.