Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I’m sure our readers have gathered by now that historical mysteries fascinate me. Tonight’s topic is one that I’ve been reading about for several years--the mysterious Tarim mummies.

The first of these mummies were discovered by Wang Ginghua in 1978. Over time, more were discovered in four different sites in the Tarim Basin area, and more than one hundred of them have been uncovered so far. Finding mummies isn’t that astonishing, but finding mummies that were blond haired and long nosed in this area is amazing.

In 1993, Victor Mayer, a college professor, collected DNA from the mummies and verified that the bodies were all of European genetic stock. That’s what makes these mummies so mysterious. Some of them date back to roughly 4,000 years ago, a time when it was thought that there were no westerners in that area. But ancient Chinese texts from as early as the first millennium BC mention the Bai, Yeuzhi, and Tocharians, which are groups of far-east dwelling Caucasian people. However, none of the texts reveal how or why these people ended up there.

The Tarim mummies were not purposefully mummified like the Egyptian dead. Instead, the hot climate and rocky soil helped to keep the deceased bodies preserved.

One of the mummies, the Yingpan Man, was six feet six inches tall and wore a red tunic with gold embroidery. He also wore a gold foil burial mask. This burial garb is more western influence than eastern. In addition to well preserved clothing, there is evidence that the people had some medical knowledge. One of the mummies showed evidence of a surgical wound on its neck that had been sutured.

Since the discovery of these Caucasian-featured mummies, scientists have been trying to find links between them and the modern citizens of the area. Several links have been discovered, but it’s difficult to make them public because of the political unrest in the area. However, many people believe the Tarim mummies represent the first Caucasians to settle in the area. And if this is fact, it means that western man settled there roughly one thousand years before scientists had previously thought.

If you're interested in reading more, here are some links:


  1. Fascinating! Thank you so much for the info, Candice.

  2. What Lisa said! This is so kewl. (signed, a fellow history geek, LOL)


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