The famous six "salt men" of Iran - ancient Iranian mummies- are in a critical condition today; reports have indicated. They have been considerably damaged since their find 12 years back.
The mummies were discovered at the Chehrabad Salt Mine in the Hamzehlu region near Zanjan 12 years ago.
Studies on the fourth Salt Man, kept at Zanjan's Zolfaqari Museum, indicate that the body is 2000 years old and he was 15 or 16 years old at the time of death.
Three other salt men are also kept at the same museum.
The plexiglass cases designed for these mummies are not hermetically sealed. Changes in air temperature and pressure have created cracks in the cases, allowing bacteria and insects to enter and damage the mummies.
It is still not clear when the other salt men lived, but archaeologists estimate that the first Salt Man lived about 1700 years ago and died sometime between the ages of 35 and 40.
He is currently on display in a glass case at the National Museum of Iran in Tehran.
The Sixth Salt Man was left in-situ due to the dearth of equipment necessary for its preservation in Iran.
"The cases designed for the salt men are not standard at all," said Abolfazl Aali, director of the archaeological exactions at the Chehrabad Salt Mine.
"There are problems with all the cases. A number of valves were installed in the Fourth Salt Man's case to control air humidity inside the covering. However, the crack made them useless," he added.
"No external change of the salt men has been observed since they have been unearthed, but the major damage, not visible to the naked eye, is caused by bacteria that invade the internal organs, something that we would be unaware of by casual observation," Aali explained.
According to Manijeh Hadian, studies have been completed for making permanent cases for the salt men and necessary funds should be found for making the devices that would help preserve the mummies in a more efficient way.
"The First Salt Man is kept at the National Museum of Iran. Although over 12 years have gone by since it was discovered, no change can be seen on it," she said.
"Controlling and monitoring temperature, humidity, and light i.e. all physical conditions is a general rule for preservation of the mummy and if the all these factors are well controlled there will be no problems with preserving the artifacts," she explained.