An investigation of the mummified, 2,400 year old remains of the young woman indicates that the young woman died of breast cancer, and the researchers speculate that the marijuana found in her burial chamber was used to mitigate the pain it caused.
"During the imaging of mammary glands, we paid attention to their asymmetric structure and the varying asymmetry of the MR signal," Andrey Letyagin, a physiology professor from the Russian Academy of Medical Science, told the Times. "We are dealing with a primary tumour in the right breast and right axial lymph nodes with metastases."
"I am quite sure of the diagnosis," he concluded. "She was extremely emaciated. Only cancer could have such an impact."
Even if the cancer is what took her life, however, Letyagin also discovered that the young woman had osteomyelitis, an infection of the bone marrow that could have caused arthritic symptoms in the joints and left her prone to fractures, like the ones she suffered shortly before dying.
"We see the traces of traumas she got not so long before her death, serious traumas - dislocations of joints, fractures of the skull," he said. "These injuries look like she got them falling from a height."
Natalia Polosmak, the archaeologist who discovered the young woman's remains, said that the Pazyryks were familiar with marijuana and its analgesic effects. "Probably for this sick woman," she speculated, "sniffing cannabis was a forced necessity."