1,000-year-old mummy found inside statue
Scientific tests have revealed that an ancient Buddhist statue contains the perfectly preserved remains of a 1,000-year-old mummified monk, in what is believed to be the only such example in the world.
The monk is thought to have starved himself to death in an act of extreme spiritual devotion in China or Tibet in the 10th century and his preserved remains were displayed in his monastery.
Some 200 years later, perhaps after his remains started to deteriorate, his mummified body was placed inside the elaborate, lacquered statue of Buddha.
The unusual contents of the statue were discovered in the 1990s when it was being restored. Expert were unable to remove the mummy because of the risk of disintegration, so they could do little more than peer into the darkened cavity of the Buddha. Now, an international team of German, Dutch and Italian scientists has conducted a Cat scan which revealed the monk's skeleton in perfect detail. "It was not uncommon for monks to practise self-mummification, but to find a mummified monk inside a statue is extraordinary," said Wilfrid Rosendahl, a German palaeontologist who led the research. "It's the only known example in the world.
"Using a Cat scan, we saw that there was a perfectly-preserved body with skin and muscles inside the statue. It's a complete mummy, not just a skeleton. He was aged between 30 and 50."
The mummy has been studied by radio carbon dating specialists and textile analysts at the Meander Medical Centre in Amersfoort, the Netherlands.
Experts took samples from the mummy's thoracic and abdominal cavities and discovered that the monk's organs had been removed and replaced with ancient wads of paper printed with Chinese characters. Samples of bone were also taken for DNA testing. The statue was bought several decades ago by a Dutch private collector, who had no idea that the mummy was inside. (© Daily Telegraph London)