Siberian Princess and her Tattoos

I was hemming and hawing over this one, but finally I realized that beyond the obvious interest in the tattoos, there’s a claim in all coverage of this which (as often) tends toward the sensational rather than the likely. Here’s the intro from the version:

Natalia Polosmak, the scientist who found the remains of Princess Ukok high in mountains close to Russia’s border with Mongolia and China, said she was struck by how little has changed in the past two millennia.

Tattoos of mythological creatures and complex patterns are believed to have been status symbols for the ancient nomadic Pazyryk people first described by the Greek historian Herodotus in the 5th century BC.

A striking tattoo of a deer with a griffon’s beak and Capricorn antlers was found on the left shoulder of the ancient ‘princess’, who died about age 25.

The antlers are decorated with the heads of griffons. And the same griffon’s head is shown on the back of the animal. She also has a dear’s head on her wrist, with big antlers. […]

via: Amazing tattoos covered ancient Siberian princess (

… it’s interesting that all the coverage I’ve seen has the same misspelling of “dear” there. What I find particularly silly, though, is this description of something with a ‘griffon’s beak’ and ‘capricorn antlers’ (whatever that’s supposed to mean). Here’s a photo from the Daily Mail of the tat in question:

via the Daily Mail

The DM has other photos as well …  I can see, perhaps, if you desperately want to see something mythical looking there, you might interpret things all griffony and capricorny. But as someone who spent much of their childhood making semi-regular visits to Banff, Alberta to see mountains and, of course the wildlife (which usually stuck their head in the window of your car, or were wandering around the golf course or people’s lawns), it’s pretty easy to see that what is depicted is little more than your basic elk, with the velvet still on the antlers. Here’s a photo for comparison:

Wikimedia Commons

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