Photo of Urumqi Horseman

Mummy Dearest

When visiting the Regional Museum in Urumqi, we find ourselves in another Xinjiang.

Don’t grimace – this mummy is from 800 BC. A relatively young ‘un, this Quiemo Female Mummy (above) is one of the many beautifully-preserved and expertly-displayed relics at the intriguing Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region Museum. She’s 160 cm, a mix of Europoid and Mongoloid and was exhumed just a few years ago.

The museum is keeper of the most prominent findings revealed in the Taklamakan Desert among the ruins of ancient cities. So my guide, Ida, heads first to the star attractions, the most famous and most valuable exhibits – the mummies. Dating back thousands of years, the mummies are fascinating as is every part of this place. These ten mummies are about four thousand years old and were found last century near Urumqi. The find became a sensational discovery because all the bodies belonged to representatives of the European race. Thanks to the dry climate and desert soils all the bodies were preserved almost intact. All ten mummies were buried with their mouths open, so they’re known as “the singing dead of the Taklimakan Desert”.

It’s believed the mummies all belong to the Loulan Kingdoms. The central figure in the collection is the “Loulan Princess” – the mummy of a four-thousand-year-old woman whose facial features are thought to be striking and typically European beauty. With her being from 1800 BC, I knew you’d want to see how she looks today…

DNA testing on certain mummies showed they were related to Scandinavians, and their woolen clothing was found to be similar in make and style to clothing from the same period in Europe. The blond mummies look Scandinavian. This is the desiccated corpse of Zhang Xiong also known as Tai Huan (583-633 AD).
He was an important person holding positions as General in Chief of the Left Guard and – concurrently – in charge of military matters of Qu Family Gaochang Kingdom Period (whatever that means, it’s what the plaque on this fabulous display says).There are also many red and brown haired mummies.Red hair was thought to be typical of Celts but not Scandinavians.

The clothing and artefacts studied in the last few years show their technology was more advanced than thought possible for Asia at that time. So in the last few years, historians have had to rewrite the history of Eurasia. It is obvious that Central Asia was linked culturally to Europe. The museum traces migration all around this part of remote North West China, much of which is now known as the Silk Road.

Check the map of Australia (below) – it even includes Tassie. And all sorts of people come to check out where they came from.

One of the major collections in the museum is an exhibition of objects related to the Great Silk Road. This section includes various pieces of silk clothing, exported abroad in the Middle Ages, as well as everything related to the artifacts found in various caravan routes, which once crossed Eastern Turkestan.

To my surprise and delight, this is one place where the Uighur appear to have equal standing, with all explanations in Uighur, Chinese and English.

Finally, the tips –

  1. The museum accepts two thousand people a day, and the best part – it’s free.
  2. The site is closed on Monday, on New Year’s Eve, the first and second day of the lunar new year.
  3. Closed for the above-mentioned times, the Exhibition Room of the ancient corpses is also not open to the public on Thursday and Sunday.

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