Friday, March 26, 2010

Tarim mummies travel

Three mummies have been transported to the U.S. to be displayed in the exhibit "Secrets of the Silk Road" (March 27, 2010 - July 27, 2010) at Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California:
  • The "Beauty of Xiaohe" (1st image) is almost perfectly preserved - right down to her eyelashes - despite being 3,800 years old. The editor of the exhibit catalog calls her "the Marlene Dietrich of the desert."
  • A mummified baby has stones covering his eyes and a nose stuffed with red wool. He had been buried with a "baby bottle" made of a sheep's udder.
  • "Yingpan Man" (3rd image) comes equipped with grave goods and dressed in silk finery. He had been given a gold foil death mask in the Greek tradition and has a blond beard underneath.
The mummies date to the Bronze Age, but the story of their excavation begins in 1934 when their tomb complex was discovered by Swedish archaeologist Folke Bergman (1902-1946). They lay inside a huge sand dune covered with 2,500 wooden stakes (2nd image) in the Lop Nur desert of western China. The Xiaohe tombs were rediscovered in 2003, just as Bergman had described them nearly 70 years earlier, by Idelisi Abuduresule, director of the Xinjiang Archaeological Institute. Careful excavation of just the upper 2 layers of the western section of the dune revealed 33 tombs and yielded 15 intact mummies. About half of the estimated 330 tombs have now been uncovered. "When we unraveled the cowhide used to wrap the coffins, the wood looked as fresh as the day it was buried, and the tombs' occupants lay cleanly in their coffins, free from the invasion of a single grain of sand," described Idelisi. The dead had been buried in boat-shaped coffins with woollen clothing and more than 1,000 cultural artifacts, including gold jewelry, straw baskets, stoneware, and jade and wooden carvings. The mystery of the Tarim mummies (also known as the Ürümchi mummies) is their inexplicable Caucasoid features, which suggest that they or their ancestors came to China from central Europe. It is unknown whether they were nomads, adventurers, or raiders along the Silk Road.

The exhibit will travel in 2011 to the Houston Museum of Natural History and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.


  1. Wow this is the most amazing thing I have EVER seen!Just when I thought that there was nothing else to get excited about in my life I discovered this. I seriously read this article over and over again because it excited me to the max. As I am typing this comment my friends and family are reading this article in the other room. They are also just a pumped! One day I repeat one day I will discover one of these or at least be apart of a team that has. I would prefer not to have my future the same as these guys but it still just as cool. I have decided to do more research on this because I want to know all there is to know about this subject. I want to thank you guys some much for helping me find my passion. Again. this article rockx!

  2. Three words.....I like it =)

  3. Wow this article is really good! very informative, i had no idea!!!!!
    thank you!!!! :)

  4. This is pretty cool

  5. A very interesting blog. I forwarded this to some of my friends and did a Tweet on it.

  6. Interesting post! The Penn Museum in Philadelphia is featuring mummies from western China in their "Secrets of the Silk Road" exhibition come February. Check it out -


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