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25-century-old Ukok Princess finds home at Altai National Museum

September 26, 2012, 12:39 UTC+3

The museum tells the history of the Republic of Altai from the ancient times up to the present

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GORNO-ALTAISK, September 26 (Itar-Tass) —— The ancient mummy of a mysterious young woman, known as the Ukok Princess or the Princess of Altai, has finally found her home at the National Museum of the Republic of Altai, which was unveiled on Wednesday after a large-scale overhaul.

“Today is a landmark day. We have finished restoration works we did jointly with the republic. It took big money to implement this project. And I am pleased to see the results of efforts of people of various professions who love their republic and value its history,” Alexei Miller, the CEO of Russia’s national gas utility Gazprom, which sponsored the project, said at the opening ceremony.

Miller handed over a symbolic key to head of the Republic of Altai Alexander Berdnikov who further handed it over to the Museum’s director, Vladimir Sakpachakov.

The museum tells the history of the Republic of Altai from the ancient times up to the present. It also displays the local lore, regional flora and fauna, unique natural beauties and cultural artefacts. In all, the museum has more than 60,000 exhibits, of which only a tiny portion were on display before the restoration. The total cost of the museum overhaul project was 746 million roubles, of which 697 million roubles came from Gazprom. Now, the museum’s overall area has virtually doubles to 16,500 square meters.

The museum has a special room to keep the famous Ukok Princess. The 25-century-old mummy was taken here after about 20 years spent at a Novosibirsk-based research institute. The mummy, an object of worship for the indigenous Altai people, 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 kept at 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. Now that the museum has been overhauled, it has all the equipment necessary to keep the proper temperature, humidity and ventilation regime.

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