The Siberian Ice Maiden, also known as the Princess of Ukok (Russian: Принце́сса Уко́ка), the Altai Princess (Russian: Алтайская принцесса), Devochka and Ochy-bala (Russian: Очы-бала, the heroine of the Altaic epic), is a mummy of a woman from the 5th century BC, found in 1993 in a kurgan of the Pazyryk culture in Republic of Altai, Russia. It was among the most significant Russian archaeological findings of the late 20th century. In 2012 she was moved to a special mausoleum at the Republican National Museum in Gorno-Altaisk.
The mummified remains of the Ice Maiden, a Scytho-Siberian woman who lived on the Eurasian Steppes in the 5th century BC, were found undisturbed in a subterranean burial chamber. Natalia Polosmak and her team discovered the Ice Maiden during the summer of 1993, when she was a senior research fellow at the Russian Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography in Novosibirsk. It was Polosmak’s fourth season working on the Ukok Plateau where the institute was continuing its research into the early habitation of southern Siberia. Nearly two decades later, there are few English language sources available for the important discovery: Polosmak’s National Geographic article from October 1994, and a BBC documentary (1997) featuring Polosmak and members of her team are the most informative and accessible.
The Ice Maiden was a representative of the Pazyryk culture that thrived between the 6th and 2nd centuries BC in the Siberian steppe.
The Ice Maiden’s tomb was found on the Ukok Plateau near the border of China, in what is now the Autonomous Republic of Altai. The plateau, part of the Eurasian Steppes, is characterized by a harsh, arid climate. The area is known by the local people as the „second layer of heaven,” one step above ordinary people and events. Present day Altai herdsmen still bring their sheep and horses to the plateau during winter because the fierce wind blows the snow off the grass and provides grazing land for the animals despite the freezing temperatures.