Scientists Are Baffled After Man Is Discovered Naturally Mummified Just 16 Days After He Was Last Seen Alive

Published September 22, 2023

Natural mummification usually takes somewhere between a month and year, but the man was fully mummified in just over two weeks.

Mummified Bulgarian Man

Biliana Mileva, et al.Over the course of 16 days, the dead man’s body completely dried out and his organs became “structureless masses.”

Just 16 days after he was last seen alive, a man was found near a railway in Sofia, Bulgaria in a “stage of complete mummification.”

In this incredibly rare instance, the dead man’s brain and other organs had become “structureless masses,” leaving researchers baffled at how this could have happened in such a short amount of time.

The case was examined in a study published in the journal Cureus.

According to the researchers, the 34-year-old man was last seen alive on Aug. 18, 2023. Just over two weeks later, on Sept. 3, police found his body near the railway line. He was still wearing the same shirt, shorts, and socks that he had been seen in on the 18th. There were also reports that he had been “chronically abusing alcohol.”

No traumatic injuries were found on the body.

However, numerous small, round lesions were found on multiple body parts, indicating that maggots had entered the body postmortem. Upon closer analysis, the body was covered with “a small amount of maggots.”

Closer, internal examination of the body showed that the organs had decayed rapidly, becoming “dried, brownish-black masses,” and that the man’s fat tissue was almost entirely gone. His muscles were likewise dried out and bright in color, as the liquid in his body had fully evaporated.

Mummified Man Skull

Biliana Mileva, et al.The inside of the mummified man’s skull, occupied by several maggots.

A toxicology analysis of the man’s internal organs tested negative for the presence of any drugs, and the cause of death is still unknown. While the researchers ruled out the possibility of his death being caused by traumatic injuries, they wrote that they “cannot exclude the possibility of alcohol intoxication or complications related to its chronic abuse.”

“Many factors could affect the mummification process, but the most important ones are dry air, good ventilation, solar radiation, and high temperature,” researchers wrote in the study. “Depending on the conditions, the time for complete mummification of the human body could vary widely. Still, this process usually takes several weeks to months.”

Throughout the 16-day period in which the man’s body was mummified, temperatures fluctuated between 60 and 91 degrees Fahrenheit, which would not be hot enough to rapidly mummify a body, with an average humidity of 52%. However, researchers noted that the conditions in Sofia, Bulgaria during this period were “close to near-mummification-inducing.”

They also theorized that the body’s proximity to the railway line could have played a part in its rapid mummification. The movement of the trains, they said, “could provoke an additional ‘windy condition,’ which could help in the fastening of the process.”

The researchers also noted that it can be difficult for forensic pathologists and medical examiners to properly determine the “postmortem interval,” or the time since death, especially in cases where the body has decomposed or mummified. They suggested that examining the life cycle of the flies that took root in the body could offer some insight into the time since death.

Mummified Man Stomach

Biliana Mileva, et al.The dried-out stomach of the mummified man.

“As the process of decomposition or mummification depends on the environment and many other factors, the life cycle of the insects could be fastened or ceased by them,” they wrote. “In the studied case, it was obvious that the specific conditions were almost entirely stopping the insect invasion and development since there were just a few larvae and pupas when they were usually hundreds and thousands.”

In the end, their findings showed that the whole life cycle of the flies had not been completed, meaning the death occurred “approximately less than 18 days before the body finding.” This corresponds to other reports, which said the deceased was last seen alive just 16 days before his body was discovered.

Researchers stated that this “precocious mummification” — a term meaning rapid mummification — is “an extremely rare event, especially where the typical conditions for this process are not met.”

There are still many unknown variables in this case, particularly the cause of the man’s death and how, exactly, this rapid mummification occurred. Given that the weather in Sofia was not optimal for such a process to occur, it is all the more baffling how the man’s body was able to mummify in just 16 days.


After reading about this bizarre case of rapid mummification, learn all about “Stuckie,” the mummified dog who has been in a tree for 50 years. Or, read about the graveyard of 5,000-year-old mummified penguins that left scientists baffled.

Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.