It's a few years from now, and an incredible breakthrough in medical science has occurred that allows doing an in-depth 3D analysis of a deceased person's body, allowing their brains and bodies to be restored with most memories and personality intact using copious quantities of handwavium. The procedure generally works as long as a body is still reminiscent of a human being, and they would have to be only slightly better preserved than the Children of Llullaillaco. Assuming an ancient culture wanted to preserve a then-healthy human being (of any age or gender) for as long as possible...

  • What is the most ancient society which was capable of this, allowing preservation of a body with minimal decomposition long enough for our modern handwavium-based necromancy?

  • Could the ancient Romans in particular near the end of the Roman Empire have done things, for example by sailing to a location cold and dry enough (even if they do not return)?

  • Could any other society around that time accomplish this? The method of preservation does not need to be specifically cryogenic, as long as they could have accomplished the feat.


3 Answers 3


For this answer, I'll step a bit out of cryogenics and focus on preservation of bodies in general.

"Ancient cultures preserving bodies" was the exact trope for pharaoh's (or wealthy people) mummies in ancient Egypt: they wanted to preserve their bodies for the "afterlife", draining fluids from the body and conserving organs in jars. Mummification in Egypt have been a thing since prior to 3500BC, but burial practices became a status symbol near 2300BC. Maybe, unbeknownst to us, they knew the future will have a technology advanced enough to revive them. Too bad we damaged or burned a lot of them since...

Yet Egyptian mummies are still recent compared to the oldest known preserved body: the Spirit Cave Mummy, the body of a native american wrapped in a woven shroud found in Nevada: it is approximately 9400 years old. I don't have a lot of information on its state of preservation, but it was good enough to find fish bones in his mummified intestines (source: The Incredible Discovery of the Spirit Cave Mummy).

So I guess the cold isn't the only way to preserve a body, waiting to be revived by handwavium: dehydration works too. Just add water.

  • $\begingroup$ Re: Egyptian mummies, I have the feeling that this type of handwavium would not be able to restore a brain's structure that was sucked out through the nose and stored in a jar until it turned into fine dust. $\endgroup$ Feb 26, 2018 at 10:24

European Celtic mummies found in China

european Celtic mummy

This ginger-bearded gentleman is 3000 years old. He was found in the Taklamakan desert.

map of taklamakan desert

He was comfortably underground. It is very dry there. If Celts predating the Romans could trek to this desert then the Romans certainly could. I am pretty sure Red did not travel there with the intent of being preserved forever but you never know.

How would people know a site had the power to preserve bodies forever? Probably because they found animals or maybe people that had been preserved by accident. Old things. If you are going to world build up such a site, be sure there are some things there that are very, very old.

Maybe the site was built by Those That Came Before.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ A note for people who don't appreciate the humor of this answer: the "Celt" in the picture was probably a Tocharian; their western-looking phenotype is well known. In any case, "Celtic" refers properly to a family of languages, and by extension to the peoples speaking those languages. Languages are not transmitted through DNA, so there is no such thing as "Celtic DNA". The Celtic and Tocharian linguistic families are indeed related, but only distantly, and they are also related to Germanic, Slavic, Latin, Greek, Armenian, Persian and Sanskrit. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Feb 25, 2018 at 1:17

As you already hint in your question, the only way to preserve a body would be to put it in a cold and dry location, preferably when it is still alive.

Drugging the person on top of a mountain could surely work in this direction.

Since Ötzi was found in the Alps, one doesn't even have to travel very far. Any civilization aiming to this preservation just need fair enough knowledge on natural drugs and hiking capabilities to reach a mountain location.

Again, Ötzi belonged to a rather primitive civilization, but was able to reach his death place on his own. So for sure the Romans could have achieved it, too.


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