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ARCHAEOLOGY > Mummified animals preserved in cave

ÇANKIRI - Anatolia News Agency

The conditions of Çankırı’s Salt Cave have preserved the bodies of animals for decades. The cave, which is an important salt reserve in the country, is one of the main attractions of the Central Anatolian region

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Mummified animals as well as sculptures made of salt are on display in the cave, where salt has been produced for 5,000 years. AA photo

Mummified animals as well as sculptures made of salt are on display in the cave, where salt has been produced for 5,000 years. AA photo

In the salt cave (tuz mağarası) of the central Anatolian provinceof Çankırı, the bodies of dead animals do not decompose; rather they are preserved by the atmosphere of the cave, where salt has been produced for 5,000 years, dating back to the Hittite period.

The body of a donkey found 200 years ago in the cave as well as that of a rabbit found five years ago and a snake found two years ago are displayed in the grotto as they were found.

The salt cave boasts Turkey’s largest rock salt reserve and is one of the significant tourism centers of central Anatolia. Many galleries comprise the cavern, from which stalactites and stalagmites of salt are suspended. Exhibiting the mummified animals is one part of a series of projects developed by the Çankırı Governor’s Office to promote the salt cave for tourism.

Mining engineer Murat Danacı, who is responsible for the cave, said the animal bodies are preserved due to the cave’s antibacterial environment: “There is no decomposition here because the life condition is zero in this atmosphere. It is an antibacterial environment; even bugs do not reproduce. There is an old saying: add salt to the wound. People used to add salt to wounds to kill bugs.”

Donkeys used to transfer salt

According to Danacı, a dead donkey was found in the cave as donkeys were historically used to transport mined salt: “Salt has been produced in the cave for nearly 5,000 years. Donkey and horse carriages were used in the past as transfer vehicles. This donkey fell into water and died when it was transferring salt. People found it some 200 years ago and put it somewhere in the cave.” Danacı said that the donkey began to decompose when it was taken from its natural environment, thus was brought back to the cave: “When [people] realized that the donkey did not decompose in the cave, it was taken to the Ankara Mineral Research and Exploration Museum (MTA). It began to decompose there and was returned to its natural environment, the salt cave. Decomposition stopped there,” he said.

He said that a dead rabbit found by workers five years ago in the cave also did not decompose: “The rabbit has been with us since then. We found it in an open place where there is no production and never carried it outside the cave. This is why decomposition was not seen.”

The last creature found and displayed is the body of a snake from two years ago: “No bodies decompose in the environment of this cave because of the salt. The donkey, rabbit and snake were not stuffed. We don’t interfere with these dead bodies,” Danacı said.

February/09/2013

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