Remains of Man in Lotus Position Discovered
His mummified body is exceedingly well-preserved
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 30, 2015 9:00 AM CST
Updated Feb 1, 2015 5:15 PM CST
The remains.   (Mongolian News)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – Mummified remains were found in Mongolia this week, and there's something remarkable about them. "The mummified body sits in a lotus position, as if still meditating," says a report in Mongolia's Morning News cited by the Siberian Times, which reports that the age of the remains was pegged at 200 years following a preliminary visual exam. The corpse, which was covered in a skin of some kind—perhaps from a cow, horse, or camel—has since been delivered to a forensic facility. According to the New York Daily News, the body showed "no visible decay." Early speculation: that he was perhaps a teacher of Lama Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov, who acted as spiritual leader to Russia's Buddhists. In 1927, the then-75-year-old told his students he planned to die and instructed them to "look at" his body in 30 years.

As the story goes, Itigilov got into the lotus position and started to meditate and chant, then died. Roughly 30 years later, his followers did indeed exhume his body and reportedly found it still in the lotus position and undecayed, the New York Times reported in 2002—the year his body was again exhumed and found to still be preserved. It was transported to a Russian monastery where it is said to remain. At the time, a scientist said the soil, the condition of the coffin, and salt placed in the coffin could help explain how the body remained so well-preserved, but suggested Itigilov may have had a defect in a gene related to decomposition, or was perhaps embalmed in some way. In a report on mummified monks, Ancient Origins notes that "self-mummification" by way of a years-long ritual known as Sokushinbutsu has been known to have occurred 28 times. The excruciating process, which reportedly takes more than six years, involved steps including a 1,000-day diet of only bark and roots and the drinking of poison tea said to eliminate bacteria that cause decay. (The "oldest known gospel" was recently found in a mummy mask.)