Skip to comments.The Mystery Behind the 5,000 Year Old Tarim Mummies
Posted on 08/31/2009 2:18:47 PM PDT by BGHater
A Tarim Basin mummy photographed circa 1910 Photo: Aurel Stein
The door creaked open, and there in the gloom of the newly opened room, perfectly preserved despite the passing of thousands of years, a red-haired mummy with Caucasian features stared back. It was a life-changing moment for archaeologist Professor Victor Mair, and ten years on it still gave him chills. Mair had stumbled upon the recently discovered corpses of a man and his family in a museum in the Chinese city of Ürümqi, but the shock waves of the find would be felt far and wide.
The 3000-year-old Cherchen Man discovered with his family
Mair had encountered the Cherchen Man, one of dozens of 3000-year-old Caucasian mummies to have been unearthed in remote parts of the Tarim Basin in what is now the Xinjiang region of China. The fact that the remains of people of Indo-European origin could be found so far east flew in the face of received wisdom about the lack of cultural exchange between early European and Chinese populations. Equally amazing was the fact that the mummies had withstood the rigours of time so well.
Tocharian man with red blond hair and visibly European features
Photo via Meshrep
In the early 20th Century, European explorers such as Aurel Stein recounted their discoveries of desiccated bodies found in their journeys through Central Asia. Since then, many more mummies have been dug up and examined, with the late 1980s a high point for this archaeological eye-opening. The bodies were preserved so well not due to deliberate mummification these were no elite class like those entombed in Ancient Egypt but simply because they were buried in parched, arid desert where they rapidly dried out.
The Beauty of Loulan, the oldest mummy found in the Tarim Basin
Photo via Meshrep
The earliest of these long-dead corpses have been shown to be Caucasoid in their physical make-up. One of the most famous, the so-called Beauty of Loulan, discovered at the eastern edge of the Taklamakan Desert, was alive as early as 2000 BC. A mummified one-year-old boy believed to have been a sacrificial victim was found buried alongside a female with long blonde hair in 1989. And a man with red-blonde hair and clearly European features visible after almost 3500 years is another of the best preserved.
Tocharian Nordic mummy found in 1989: Disfigured female with blonde hair
Photo via Meshrep
So what were a group of Indo-Europeans doing so many thousands of miles east of their established territory? From their full beards, deep-set eyes and high noses as well as associated texts and artefacts found with the mummies it is thought they were Tocharians, herders who travelled east across the Central Asian steppes and whose language was Indo-European in kind. Some speculate that these Tocharians may have profited from prehistoric trade along a route that would later become the Silk Road.
Mummified boy, roughly one year of age, found in the same grave
Photo via Meshrep
Tocharian people might thus be credited with helping spread inventions to China such as the saddle and even the wheel, as well as certain metal working skills. Professor Mair is an advocate of the idea that ancient communities were much more interrelated than was previously believed. For him, the evidence suggests that the first people to roam the Tarim Basin were Europoid, and that with the arrival of settlers from the east, a connection was made. Whether this is true or not, one thing is certain: many of the mummies of the Tarim Basin look like they were buried years, not millennia, ago.
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Nothing ‘new’, but maybe for catalog.
Bill Clinton would say she’s kinda cute! “He’d hit that!”
I love reading about stuff like this-and I particularly enjoyed the photos. Thanks for posting.....
...In a glass display case so poorly lit that visitors needed to use flashlights to look at its contents, Mair spied a bizarre sight. It was the outstretched body of a man just under six feet tall, dressed in an elegantly tailored wool tunic and matching pants, the colour of red wine. Covering the man's legs were striped leggings in riotous shades of yellow, red, and blue, attire so outrageous it could have come straight from the pages of Dr. Seuss. But it was not so much the man's clothing that first riveted Mair's attention. It was the face. It was narrow and pale ivory in colour, with high cheekbones, full lips, and a long nose. Locks of ginger-coloured hair and a greying beard framed the parchment-like skin. He looked very Caucasian: indeed he resembled someone Mair knew intimately. "He looked like my brother Dave sleeping there, and that's what really got me. I just kept looking at him, looking at his closed eyes. I couldn't tear myself away, and I went around his glass case again and again and again. I stayed in there for several hours. I was supposed to be leading our group. I just forgot about them for two or three hours."
Local archaeologists had come across the body a few years earlier while excavating in the Tarim Basin, an immense barren of sand and rock in southern Xinjiang. [... ...]
Certainly, the presence of ancient Europeans in China even in its outer reaches could be twisted and distorted to political ends: people with racial agendas had long been searching for just such evidence. During the 1930s, for example, Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler had taken an unhealthy interest in Genghis Khan, the most famous leader of the Mongols, who in the thirteenth century had conquered vast stretches of Central Asia, from southern Siberia to Tibet, and from Korea to the Aral Sea. "Our strength," observed Hitler in a thundering speech to the commanders of Germany's armed forces in 1939, "is in our quickness and brutality. Genghis Khan had millions of women and children killed by his own will and with a gay heart. History sees in him only a great state builder. . . ."
But Hitler's admiration of the ancient Mongol presented a serious problem for a party that placed great stock in racial purity. Genghis Khan, after all, was not Caucasian. He belonged to an Asian race that the Nazis heartily despised as inferior. Himmler, who fancied himself a historian, finally came up with a solution based on pure whimsy. He told one anthropologist that Genghis Khan and his elite Mongol followers were actually Caucasians, descended from the citizens of Atlantis who had decamped from their mythical island home before it sank, cataclysmically, beneath the waves. These Mongol Caucasians, Himmler claimed, were a special kind of Caucasian: German blood flowed through their veins.
One recent book suggests that Himmler went so far as to request a collection of mummies from Central Asia...
THE CAUCASIANS OF CHINA SECRETS OF THE REDHEAD MUMMIES
They had a TV special on these I was watching once, this is very interesting. China is not all Han Chinese, maybe China can claim Europe as a lost province. I believe with a little twisted logic on the part of the Red Army, the whole world can be a breakaway Chinese province.
He's older than I thought.
Lol, 6 degrees and all.
Neanderthals reportedly had red hair genes.
Although these mummies are from a time later than the Neandethal period, could they be a later variant that was lost from Europe when the neanderthals disappeared?
Perhaps driven out by homo sapiens into the vast Asian steppes looking for the clan of the Cave Bear...
Where o where is Eric Von Daniken when you need him?
That mummy looks like he just needs some coffee to get up and start walking around. I’m sure I’ve looked worse after three days of camping (and drinking).
So interesting, thanks for posting.
"I'd hit it!"
(and thanks to BG for posting)
The Neanderthal red-hair gene is unlike the homo sapiens red-hair gene. Just how, I am not sure, but read that somewhere.
These people were part of the early Indo-European culture that formed just north of the Black Sea. It was the seed bed of the Indo European culture. Some of them split off to the east and ended up in the Tarim basin. Others moved west, taking their Indo-European languages with them.
Thanks BGHater. This one gets pinged because it's been ages since we had a topic about this, also the pictures are very nice! Thanks wildbill for the additional ping; there's a cool video (I bought a few at a dollar store, sent one to blam) about these mummies, and even cooler, it's narrated by John Malkovich.
· Discover · Nat Geographic · Texas AM Anthro News · Yahoo Anthro & Archaeo · Google ·
· The Archaeology Channel · Excerpt, or Link only? · cgk's list of ping lists ·
They say the DNA links them to the Celtics but won't/don't provide the haplogroups.
I’m just glad it wasn’t the Lakers.
This pushes the roots of golf back much farther than previously believed.
| Nazi Scots golfers
bring their death and destruction
to ancient China...
Well, all I know is the Scots (ref. Sunken Civ)must have the Neanderthal red hair gene.
That’s why they’re notorious for being so wild.
Thanks for the ping. Not new, but it’s such a fascinating story I don’t tire of it.
...and Dr Seuss...
I grok that.
I’ve probably got the genes (my hair does red up in the summer, much less so now than when I was young) but I don’t otherwise carry the Scottish Loch Ness, er, I mean, likeness.
Green Eggs and Hamlet
I ask to be, or not to be.
That is the question, I ask of me.
This sullied life, it makes me shudder.
My uncles boffing dear, sweet mother.
Would I, could I, take my life?
Could I, should I, end this strife?
Should I jump out of a plane?
Or throw myself before a train?
Should I from a cliff just leap?
Could I put myself to sleep?
Shoot myself, or take some poison?
Maybe try self immolation?
To shudder of this mortal coil,
I could stab myself with a fencing foil.
Slash my wrists while in the bath?
Would it end my angst and wrath?
To sleep, to dream, now theres the rub.
I could drop a toaster in my tub.
Would all be glad, if I were dead?
Could I perhaps kill them instead?
This line of thought takes consideration-
For Im the king of procrastination.
The Bard Blog
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