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British Experts Started Studies on Zanjan's Salt Men in Iran

By Maryam Tabeshian
Tehran, 26 November 2006 (CHN) -- After months of negotiations between Iran’s Archeology Research Center and the British universities of Oxford and York, a team consisting of two archeologists from these universities came to Iran to study the salt mummies found in Zanjan’s salt mine, located in western Iran. So far, five mummies known as “Salt Men” have been discovered in Chehr Abad salt mine.
Dr. Mark Pollard, professor of archeological science at Oxford University and Dr. Dan Brothwell, from the Department of Archeology, University of York, came to Iran last week by the invitation of Iran’s Archeology Research Center. The two experts, who are specialized in archeology, biology and paleontology, started their studies on the DNA samples of the five salt men and will concentrate their studies on the diet, health, and age of the mummies before death. According to Abolfazl Aali, head of the excavation team in Chehr Abad mine, this will be the start of a new phase of research on the salt men.
Samples of these salt men and their belongings including their clothes had previously been sent to Oxford and Cambridge universities to be dated by implementing genetics studies and DNA analysis. The results showed that the first two discovered salt men belong to the Sassanid dynastic period (224-651 AD) while the last three are dated to the Achaemenid dynastic era (550-330 BC). However, the new studies will verify the previous findings to give a more accurate and precise dating.
The first salt man was discovered in Zanjan’s Chehr Abad salt mine by accident by the miners in 1993. More than a decade later in November 2004, the body of the second salt man was discovered in the same salt mine. The year 2005 was the year of salt men discoveries and bodies of the third, fourth, and fifth salt mummies were unearthed in January, March, and December 2005. Archeologists predict that more salt mummies could still be found lying under piles of salt in Chehr Abad had the excavations in this salt mine resumed.
“We stopped our excavations in Chehr Abad salt mine for a season to conduct more studies on what we have which includes the mummies and other archeological findings from this mine. However, we will pick up our excavations in Chehr Abad next year,” explained Aali.
Based on a an agreement signed between Iran and British universities, more experts from Oxford and York universities will come to Iran next year to continue studies on Zanjan’s salt men.
These salt men are among rare mummies discovered around the world that are mummified as a result of natural conditions. Since the salt men have been buried in salt for centuries, most of their tissues are well preserved. Special conditions of the salt mine which prevented the activities of microorganisms caused the excellent preservation of organic and inorganic materials in the mine.
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