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Mummies in Xinjiang Better Preserved than Egyptian Ones: Experts
2005-04-25

The mummies have been well preserved in the Xiaohe Tomb Complex in the Lop Nur Desert in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, experts said.

"The mummies were unbelievably well preserved, even better than the mummies in Egypt," said Zhu Hong, director of the Frontier Archeology Study Department of the Jilin University in northeastern China's Jilin Province.

"Even the louses at the dead's heads have been preserved," Zhu said. He participated in the excavation in 2003 and studied the mummies with two other experts from Jan. 31 to Feb. 12 in 2005.

Archaeologists unearthed 167 tombs of the Xiaohe Tomb complex, which sprawls over a 2,500-square-meter oval-shaped dune, 174 km from the ruins of the Loulan Kingdom, an ancient civilization thatvanished 1,500 years ago.

The complex contains about 330 tombs, but about 160 of them were spoiled. Most objects found in the tombs remain untouched andwill help the study on local social culture and customs at that time, said Idelisi Abuduresule, head of the Xinjiang Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute.

The institute launched the excavation project in October 2003 with the approval of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.

The tomb complex yielded rare cultural relics including wooden ware, animal hair fabrics, jade, stone ware, and fur and bones of animals such as sheep, cattle, fowl, lynx and weasel.

It also yielded genital-symbolic objects, indicating a prevailing phallicism at that time, but little bronze ware had been unearthed, though many wood ware objects were obviously made with bronze ware, and it might be that bronze ware objects were too rare to be buried as funerary objects, Zhu said.

Most tombs were built by the same procedures, experts said. Ancient people first dug sand pits, put coffins made of diversiform-leaved poplar inside, and then erected pieces of carved wood representing the dead's gender, Zhu said.

Many riddles await the researchers, Idelisi said. "Why were thetombs terraced? Why were the wooden posts cut into a variety of shapes from columns to prisms and what did people use for the carving? Why didn't we find any traces of human life near such a massive burial site?" he asked.

Idelisi said the burial style is unique and unveiling its mystery should involve the research efforts of not only archaeologists and historians but also anthropologists, religion experts and environment researchers.

Experts believe the tomb complex might belong to the Bronze Ageand they are attempting to determine the date of the tombs throughtree-ring analysis on wooden coffin boards and chronometry on the earth from the tombs.

The massive burial site was first discovered in 1934 by Swedishexplorer, Folke Bergman. His archaeological diary helped Chinese researchers spot the site at the end of 2000, after the diary was published in Chinese.

 

Xinhuanet


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