KARACHI, Dec 30: The mummified remains of a woman, whose sarcophagus’s discovery was touted as an extraordinary archaeological find of Pakistan over eight years ago, was quietly buried by the Edhi Foundation early this year.
Sources told Dawn that as a rule unclaimed bodies left at the country’s largest charity were buried within three days but the mummified remains of the woman found their final resting place in the first half of the year after a wait of almost eight years, blamed on the bureaucracy’s red tape.
“It had to be buried. We waited for eight long years for approval from the authorities. The approval never came,” said Anwer Kazmi, senior spokesperson for the Edhi trust.
Mr Kazmi said the trust finally wrote a letter to the National Museum, informing them that the body and the coffin were going to be buried.
He added that ever since the body had been handed over to the trust from the museum, the trust had been in constant contact with the authorities. The museum disassociated itself from the issue, saying that the police had the final say, for they were investigating the case.
The Pakistani police discovered the mummy in 2000, during a murder investigation. The script on the sarcophagus dated and placed it to the 6th century BC, in Persia. Both Pakistan and Iran claimed the mummy, until tests proved it to be an elaborately created fake.
Mr Kazmi observed that after that, it was simply red tape that delayed the burial for this long.
An official with the National Museum, requesting anonymity, said it was up to the police departments of Sindh and Balochistan to authorise the burial. Mr Kazmi said that both departments failed to reply to correspondence from the Edhi trust when the museum told them the body was the police’s responsibility, as it was part of a criminal case.
Mr Kazmi explained that the mummified body occupied the space of two bodies at the morgue, adding that it cost about Rs500 to keep a body at the morgue for three days.
The woman had apparently been mummified by antique smugglers and touted as an archaeological find. The discovery attracted international attention at the time, with journalists and collectors from around the world becoming interested in the remains. It also led to a diplomatic row between Iran and Pakistan, with both sides claiming ownership.
Subsequent examination of the body, however, found it to be that of a middle-aged woman who died in either 1996 or 1997, with the cause of death being a broken back, according to an expert.
Mr Kazmi said the police appeared to have lost all interest in the case. Some police officers were even promoted after the discovery. Those promotions were not withdrawn, however, when the find proved to be a hoax.