TITLE: Mummies Of Urumchi
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Wayland Barber
DATE PUBLISHED: 1999
"In the museums of Ürümchi, the windswept regional capital of the Uyghur Autonomous Region (also known as Chinese Turkestan), a collection of ancient mummies lies at the center of an enormous mystery.
Some of Ürümchi's mummies date back as far as 4,000 years―contemporary with the famous Egyptian mummies but even more beautifully preserved. Surprisingly, these prehistoric people are not Asian but Caucasoid―tall, large-nosed and blond with thick beards and round eyes. What were these blond Caucasians doing in the heart of Asia? What language did they speak? Might they be related to a "lost tribe" known from later inscriptions? Few clues are offered by their pottery or tools, but their clothes―woolens that rarely survive more than a few centuries―have been preserved as brightly hued as the day they were woven. Elizabeth Wayland Barber describes these remarkable mummies and their clothing, and deduces their path to this remote, forbidding place. The result is a book like no other―a fascinating unveiling of an ancient, exotic, nearly forgotten world. A finalist for the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize. Illustrated"
Barber describes the mummies found at Urumchi, Loulan and Cherche, located in the Tarim Basin, Central Asia. She focuses on the textiles found on these mummies and compares them with the tartan found on mummies found in ancient salt mines near Salzburg, Austria. The types of materials, weaves, types of looms, as well as the origin and spread of weaving technology is examined, and compared with neighbouring cultures. The world these ancient people inhabited is examined in an attempt to piece together their history and peculiar Western connections, both from what Barber personally observed and from the testimony of others who explored the Silk Road centuries earlier. Linguistic clues are also examined, as well as (then) newly discovered scripts and thus languages dubbed Tokharian. The historical movement of various groups of people are examined, taking into account the physical geography and changing climate of the area. Barber provides a riveting historical adventure during which an exotic and relatively unknown world is gradually revealed. The book contains numerous maps and many colour photographs.
This is an informative and interesting book that examines where various people making their home in the Tarim Basin came from, how they lived, their movements, their associations to the East (China) and West (Europe, Near East), and what eventually happened to them. Barber has an easy-going writing style that manages to remain professional but not dull or boring.
The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West by J.P. Mallory and Victor H. Mair