Photo by: Wenying Li, Xinjiang Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology

Wenying Li, Xinjiang Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology

Mummies Found in China Have an Ancient Origin Story

By: Discovery

A discovery of mummies in the Tarim Basin in China from the 1990s has finally been demystified. The remains showed evidence of western origin, but after a DNA test, it turns out that these mummies are a bit more local than once thought.

October 29, 2021

The Tarim Basin is predominantly covered by the Taklamakan Desert, which is dry and inhospitable for human settlement. Located in central Asia, this was the location of an incredible anthropological find. The remains of thousands of people were discovered alongside clothes, tools, food, and other artifacts. The arid climate created a perfect setting for preservation for what is now known as a 4,000-year-old civilization.

Photo by: Wenying Li, Xinjiang Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology

Wenying Li, Xinjiang Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology

This discovery was noted as even more of a mystery because of the western look of the clothing on the mummies and the unprecedented burial practices-- all of the remains were found laid to rest in wooden boats. This is odd due to the location of the find--the middle of the desert. Many believed that these peoples were wanderers or nomads, but genome sequencing done on 13 of the mummies by Chinese, European, and American researchers showed that these remains are actually native descendants of an ancient ice-age civilization.

Photo by: Wenying Li, Xinjiang Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology

Wenying Li, Xinjiang Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology

This genetic research is only the beginning. There are still mysteries surrounding this find. "The mummies have long fascinated scientists and the public alike since their original discovery. Beyond being extraordinarily preserved, they were found in a highly unusual context, and they exhibit diverse and far-flung cultural elements," stated Christina Warinner, an associate professor of anthropology at Harvard. The research surrounding this discovery will continue globally and with every bit of information uncovered, the more the anthropological community, as well as the public, will understand about this incredible find.

Next Up

The Romantic, Heartbreaking Love Story Behind the Taj Mahal

Ivory white columns rise from the earth, framing the central masterpiece: an intricately carved marble domed structure stood on a square plinth, resplendent with arched doorways, and topped by a bronze moon that reaches for the sky.

A Majestic City Carved into Rock, Thousands of Years Ago

Carved into soft stone cliffs, the ancient sandstone city of Petra was built in the 3rd century BC by the Nabataeans. These people were a nomadic Arab tribe–Bedouins–who roamed the Arabian Desert in search of pasture and water for their herds.

A Spanish Sunken Galleon Has a $17B Bounty Onboard - and Now You Can See It

Way back in 1708, when the War of Spanish Succession was waging across Europe and Latin America to decide who should be the next King of Spain, three Spanish galleons set sail from Panama. They were loaded to the brim with gold, silver, emeralds, and other jewels that had been extracted from the mines of Bolivia – and were vital in financing Spain’s costly war against its enemies.

In this Mars-Like Landscape, You Can See Both Hemispheres At Once

There’s a rarely-visited, dusty corner of the world where something magical happens. The place, which looks like Mars with its red rock landscape, is the Tatacoa Desert, in Colombia.

Mt. Shasta, California’s Mysterious Volcano, is an Enigma Waiting to be Explored

At the northernmost tip of California lies the southern end of the dramatic Cascade mountain range. And the crowning glory of the range, which ripples down through British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon, before it comes to a stunning crescendo at Mount Shasta.

3,000-Year-Old Lost City Found in Egypt

3,000-year-old city of Aten has been discovered to be the next best “extraordinary” finding since the tomb of boy king Tutankhamen.

Dinosaur Footprints from 200 Million Years Ago Discovered in Wales

Members of the public found the former dinosaur “trampling grounds” while at the beach in South Wales.

The First All-Black Team Will Climb Mount Everest Next Year

By scaling the 29,032-foot-peak, Full Circle Everest hopes to empower people of color to explore the outdoors.

Pingelap Atoll is Known as the Island of the Colorblind

There's a place where colorblindness runs so rampant that it's known as the Island of the Colorblind. Learn more about the island where its inhabitants see in almost entirely black and white.

Does this Incredible New Discovery Mean We Should Believe in Fairies After All?

Archaeologists in China recently unveiled a fascinating new discovery of ancient communities worshiping fairies, after unearthing a “one of its kind” treasure trove at the famous Sanxingdui archeological site.