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400-Year-Old Mummy Found to be Granddaughter of Queen Munjeong

400-Year-Old Mummy Found to be Granddaughter of Queen Munjeong

Posted November. 06, 2002 23:00,   


A mummified young woman, who is believed to a granddaughter of Yun Won-hyung, a brother of a queen and man of influence in early Chosun Dynasty, was found with a fetus inside her ruptured uterus.

˝A woman and her fetus were in almost perfect shape even after 436 years, which is a very rare case throughout the world,˝ said a team comprising professors and students at Korea University.

The woman was found in a tomb of Yun Jeong-jeong located in Gyoha-eup, Paju-si in Gyeonggi-do, where the family of Papyeong Yun was buried. She was in her early or mid 20s and died of a uterine rupture, according to examinations.

˝Based on what we found in the tomb, she is believed to be a daughter of So, a son of Yun Won-hyung`s elder brother Won-ryang,˝ said a member of the archeologist team.

Yun Won-ryang (1495 to 1569) was a nobleman and served as a senior official at Donyung-bu, an agency supervising queen`s relatives. His son Yun So served as a local magistrate. The Papyeong Yun family wielded a great influence at that time as Won-ryang`s younger sister married to King Jungjong. Yun-so`s elder sister also became one of King Injong`s concubines.

According to the Papeong Yun family pedigree, Yun So had a son from his lawful wife and two sons and a daughter from concubines, and the mummy is believed to be the only daughter he got from one of his concubines.

The archeologist team found that the woman was about 155cm tall and her uterus was ruptured 2 to 3cm inside. The head of a fetus was stuck outside the uterus towards the vagina, and the fetus` hair was seen outside her body.

After X-ray, magnetic resonance image (MRI) examinations and an abdominal incision, the team found that the fetus had its legs in the upper abdomen of the woman. There were traces of blood in the fetus` body and it was a boy having testicles.

Experts said that the bodies were able to remain intact in a semi-mummified state due to the seasonal factors and the shape of the coffin. Given a note found in the coffin saying `diseased in Yunshiwal`, the time of the death is believed to be December in 1566.

The coffin was made of wood in two folds and the tomb was enclosed with lime plaster. With the lime plaster hardened, the tomb was completely blocked off and remained under vacuum for hundreds of years.

Historians assumed that the woman was buried in the family tomb after she died at her parents` home during the delivery.

˝According to the old custom called `Ugui,` a married couple had to stay at the woman`s house until they got the first baby,˝ said Dr. Kim Young-jae at the National Folk Museum. A letter in Korean and two in grass characters were also found at the site, and scientists are currently studying them.

Seong-Ju Lee Sung-Won Joo stein33@donga.com swon@donga.com