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Cause and Manner of Death

The cause of Icemaiden's death seems to be still mysterious to scientists, however, there have been many theories as to why she died so young. Icemaiden was discovered in a treelog coffin, in the depths of the ice. Much mystery surrounds this ancient find, but perhaps the most interesting is the question: How did she die?

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When Icemaiden was studied through medical means, including a number of x-rays, a "suspicious" 2-inch hole in the back of her skull was exposed. Natalia Polosmak then appealed to a Swiss forensic pathologist named Rudolph Hauri, who was experienced in autopsies, completing around 70 autopsies on average per year. This was an archaeological mystery. Was the Ice Maiden killed by a blow to her skull? Or was her skull damaged later in the burial practises of the Pazyryk people? Bone turns very brittle after death. When struck, it yields distinctive fracture lines. As he would in a homicide trial, Rudolph demonstrated the effect using a fragile skull from a cadaver.

"You see the lines of fracture here in this example. That's like fractures of a clay pottery, and the same thing was on the Ice Maiden, so I'm sure it's post-mortem—after death." - Hauri.


So, the fracture in her skull seems to have occurred post-mortem, mirroring the burial practices seen in the writings of Herodotus.

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According to traditional Pazyryk burial, when a noble dies they coat the body with wax, cut open the belly, clean it and fill it with chopped marsh plants and incense and parsley seed and anise, and sew it together again. Biochemist, Werner Schoch, discovered through chemical testing that, in addition to fur and wool, her body was packed with natural preservatives. The Ice Maiden's eyes had also been cut out and her eye sockets stuffed with fur.

"If you left the eyeballs inside of the orbits they will lose water and they shrink together. That means that the eyelids fall inside the orbit. To prevent this you have to take out the eyeball and put something other inside there." - Hauri.

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Icemaiden's age when she died could possibly give an indication as to whether she died of natural causes.

"You'll see these lines on the skull. These fissures, these are widely open on this skull. That means the skull is young—perhaps between 20 and 30. After 30, there will be closing and if someone is very old—70 or 80—they're nearly closed and invisible. Our examinations of the skull of the Ice Maiden showed that we saw mainly open fissures like here. It was comparable. That means that she was between 20 and about 30—probably about 25." - Hauri.

Many things can be determined, however it seems that her death remains a mystery, which perhaps contributes to the creation of The Curse of the Icemaiden.