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Last Updated: Friday, 2 April, 2004, 17:38 GMT 18:38 UK
'Mummy's curse' upsets Siberians
Siberian shaman Kenin-Lopsan poses with an ancestral gravesite figure
Shamanism remains strong among Siberia's native peoples
People in a remote part of Russia have blamed a spate of earth tremors on the excavation of a 2,500-year-old mummy known as the Princess of Altai.

They want scientists to return the remains, which were found in ice and offer unique insights into their time.

Archaeologists oppose reburying the mummy, which is still being examined more than 10 years after its discovery.

Shamanism is still strong in the Altai mountains and one local leader said the mummy's "spirit" had to be appeased.

Aulkhan Jatkambayev said tremors had been happening at the rate of two or three times a week, sometimes measuring up to four on the Richter scale.

"People think this will go on as long as the Princess's spirit is not allowed to rest in peace," he told AFP news agency.

"We must calm people down and bury the Altai Princess."

The region in south Siberia is no stranger to tremors, sitting along a fault zone in the Earth's crust.

Last year, it was the epicentre of an earthquake that left about 1,800 people homeless.

Glass tomb

The Princess is being examined at the Ethnographic Institute in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk.

Native religion of the Ural-Altaic peoples of Siberia
Belief that all good and evil is caused by spirits which shamans - or priests - alone can influence
Shamanistic beliefs have survived among native peoples despite conversion to Christianity under the tsars, then Communist repression

She was a prized find for archaeologists in Russia and across the world, when she was excavated in 1993 along with six saddled and bridled horses from the frozen earth of Altai's Ukok plateau.

Mummy specialists from Moscow - who were more used to embalming the body of Soviet revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin - were brought in to restore the Princess.

Nothing is known of her actual history, but DNA tests and the reconstruction of her face already indicate she was of European, not Asian, origin, Russia's Izvestia newspaper reports.

Found on the borders of China and Mongolia, she was initially thought to have been of Scythian extraction.

Archaeologists in Novosibirsk say they are willing to return the mummy to an Altai museum eventually, but only if suitable conditions are provided there for conserving the body.

"We are prepared to discuss the mummy's possible transfer to the museum, but burying it is out of the question," team leader Vyacheslav Molodin told Izvestia.

The director of the ethnographic museum in Altai's capital, Gorno-Altaisk, says there are plans to build a glass tomb for the mummy inside the museum.

"Everybody can come and bow before her," said Rima Yerkinova.

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