The frigid regions of the World are comprised of the circumpolar part of the Northern Hemisphere (Alaska, Greenland and parts of Canada, Scandinavia, European Russia and Siberia), the circumpolar part of the Southern Hemisphere, and the high altitude mountainous areas (e.g., the Alps, the Andes and the Himalayas). In these regions, low temperatures and high winds with low humidity prevail, special climatic conditions that favor the preservation of organic material. These frigid regions are sparsely populated, particularly the Antarctic and the high altitude areas. The Arctic, the SubArctic and the vast Asian regions of permafrost have been populated for millennia, however sparsely, and have witnessed extensive migrations with temporary and permanent settlements. Investigations of ancient mummified human remains from these regions, along with garments and equipment, have provided information of decisive importance for the knowledge and understanding of local culture and history.
The low temperatures and low air humidity favour the preservation of deceased animal and human bodies (Hart Hansen 1989). The complicated chemical processes of decomposition and putrefaction normally start immediately after death. Water is necessary for the growth of bacteria and fungal organisms, and if it is removed by freezing or evaporation, bacterial growth and therefore putrefaction are prevented. Alternating periods of freezing and thawing have a particularly desiccating effect, and together can delay or stop the process of decay and the disappearance of the soft tissues.