Friday, April 16, 2010

4,000-Year-Old Euro Mummies Found in... China?!

Image: Liu Yu Sheng via New York Times
A cemetery of 200 mummy's from four millennia ago has been discovered in the Xinjiang of China (north of Tibet)--extremely well preserved thanks to the arid air of the Gobi Desert. The rest of the story is so weird that the NYT does better than I ever could at recounting. From the New York Times:
Their remains, though lying in one of the world’s largest deserts, are buried in upside-down boats. And where tombstones might stand, declaring pious hope for some god’s mercy in the afterlife, their cemetery sports instead a vigorous forest of phallic symbols, signaling an intense interest in the pleasures or utility of procreation.
Of course! How else can you find a cemetery of mummies under a pile of boats? There's more...
The 200 or so mummies have a distinctively Western appearance, and the Uighurs, even though they did not arrive in the region until the 10th century, have cited them to claim that the autonomous region was always theirs. Some of the mummies, including a well-preserved woman known as the Beauty of Loulan, were analyzed by Li Jin, a well-known geneticist at Fudan University, who said in 2007 that their DNA contained markers indicating an East Asian and even South Asian origin.

The mummies in the Small River Cemetery are, so far, the oldest discovered in the Tarim Basin. Carbon tests done at Beijing University show that the oldest part dates to 3,980 years ago. A team of Chinese geneticists has analyzed the mummies’ DNA.
Full story.....

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