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Scientists Set to Unravel Secrets of Oldest Peruvian Mummies Ever Found

Scientists Set to Unravel Secrets of Oldest Peruvian Mummies Ever Found

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Ancient people in the mountains of Peru revered their ancestors so much they mummified them and included their bodies in community activities, archaeologists say. Now a new study of four 8,000- to 10,000-year-old mummies from Peru's Tres Ventanas (‘Three Windows’) cave may help researchers understand more about these people, who cultivated potatoes and corn and domesticated animals around the same time as farmers in Egypt and Mesopotamia.

In recent years mummies from around the world have undergone analysis using modern scientific and medical techniques. The entire June 2015 issue of the scientific journal The Anatomical Record , all 26 articles, is devoted to studies of mummies.

What scientists learned about the Tres Ventanas mummies is detailed in a new study conducted by medical and archaeological scholars. The authors, led by L. Samuel Wann of the Paleocardiology Founation of Columbia St. Mary's Healthcare in the U.S. city of Milwaukee, wrote:

The Tres Ventanas mummies of Peru are thought to be among the oldest mummies in existence… A preliminary assessment is made of the potential of these mummies for use in future research on mummified remains. Although the Tres Ventanas cave and the four mummies were explored and then excavated by Frederic Engel in 1966-'67 … the importance of both the physical remains and the context in which they were found has only come to light in the last few years. Most important is the paleopathological examination of these remains since these mummies are found in a high altitude area of Peru where adaptation to the limited partial pressure of oxygen is a key component in broadening our understanding of human diversity in past populations.

The discovery of the cave is interesting. In 1966 Berndardino Ojeda was lost during an archaeological expedition of the coastal highlands of Central Peru in the region of Chilca, when he came upon the cave. The fertile valley of the glacier-fed Chilca River, which empties into the Pacific, has been inhabited for 10,000 years. Ojeda and Engel explored the Tres Ventanas cave and found evidence of human habitation by hunter-gatherers going back 10,000 years. So these mummies go back perhaps almost to the earliest days of Peruvian pioneers.

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Mouths of the Tres Ventanas cave, which are believed to have been dug in part by ancient mega-sloths. (Photo by The Anamotical Record)

“Central to an understanding of mummification in pre-Colombian Peru is the cultural aspect of ancestor worship.” the authors wrote. “In Peru, without the aid of surgical or chemical preparation, pre-Colombian peoples naturally dehydrated their ancestors so that, through their mummification, they could keep the deceased 'alive' as part of the community. The mummies were looked after and brought back from their graves to be fed, clothed and even consulted.”

The Tres Ventanas mummies are at the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Biodiversidad Agricultura y Alimentaciòn in Lima. The museum has an extraordinary collection, the article states, with “a rich and comprehensive display on the origins of the human occupation of prehistoric Peru, including evidence of animal domestication and agriculture coeval [contemporaneous] with developments in other civilizations such as Mesopotamia and Egypt.” The four mummies are kept in an oxygen-free capsule that protects them from disintegration.

The mummies were never eviscerated or altered with substances that would change their molecular makeup. The ancient people of Tres Ventana mummified their loved one's remains through dehydration, which was common in the Andes Mountains of South America. Unlike coastal mummies, which are wrapped in cotton, the Tres Ventanas mummies were wrapped in fur.

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While research teams in recent years have been examining ancient mummies from Egypt, Peru, Pueblo and the Aleutian Islands for evidence of cardiac disease, the Tres Ventanas mummies have not yet undergone such analysis, though they may yet undergo CT scans. The Peruvian mummies that were examined by non-destructive X-ray computed tomography will give evidence for the prehistoric presence or absence of artherosclerosis (heart disease) in highland areas.

The authors of the article on the Tres Ventanas mummies note that the cold, high altitude of the cave, at 3,850 meters (12,631 feet) above sea level, may have meant the people who lived in those caves were not subject to communicable diseases as much as people at lower altitudes. And the researchers expect to find that their hearts are larger than other people because of reduced oxygen at the high altitude. The heart has to pump more blood when there is less oxygen and increased pumping makes the heart larger.

A 3D CT scan of a 560-year-old Peruvian child mummy at the Cincinnati Museum Center. This mummy is much younger than the Tres Ventanas mummies, but they may undergo similar medical procedures. ( Courtesy: Cincinnati Children’s )

Featured image: A child mummy with funerary items, from the Tres Ventanas cave in Peru (Photo by The Anatomical Record journal)

By Mark Miller

Dozens of mummies, including mother and child, discovered in Egyptian tomb

Inside the tomb, archaeologists found more than 30 mummies. These include two 'superimposed mummies,' which archaeologists believe are likely a mother and child.

Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered a tomb containing dozens of mummies, including the remains of a mother and child.

The rock-cut tomb was found in the southern city of Aswan. Inside, archaeologists found more than 30 mummies. These include two “superimposed mummies,” which archaeologists believe are likely a mother and child.

In a Facebook post, Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities said that the tomb is from the Greco-Roman period, which began with Alexander the Great in 332 B.C. The statement said archaeologists found artifacts, including decorated masks, vases, coffin fragments and cartonnages — chunks of linen or papyrus glued together.

A well-preserved statuette of Ba-bird, which represents the souls of the deceased, was also found.

The rock-cut tomb has revealed its secrets. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)

Within the tomb’s main chamber, archaeologists also found a stretcher made from palm wood and linen strips that would have been used for depositing the bodies. “At the entrance of the room, vessels containing bitumen for mummification, white cartonnage ready to be painted and a lamp have been discovered,” officials explained.

The tomb was discovered near the mausoleum of the Aga Khan, who lobbied for Muslim rights in India and who was buried there after his death in 1957.

Egypt continues to reveal fresh details of its rich history. Archaeologists, for example, recently uncovered the 2,500-year-old remains of a powerful ancient Egyptian high priest. In another project, the secrets of a mysterious “Tomb of the Warriors,” were revealed in a PBS documentary.

The mummies in a rock-cut tomb in the southern Egyptian city of Aswan. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)

Archaeologists have also discovered the wreck of an extremely rare vessel that traveled the Nile around 2,500 years ago, solving an ancient puzzle.

Elsewhere in Egypt, researchers found a large ram-headed sphinx that is linked to King Tutankhamun’s grandfather. In other projects, a teenage girl’s skeleton was discovered in a mysterious grave near the Meidum pyramid, south of Cairo.

Last month, experts announced the discovery of dozens of mummies in ancient desert burial chambers. Archaeologists also recently explained the strange brown spots on some of the paintings in King Tutankhamun’s tomb.

A well-preserved statuette of Ba-bird, which represents the souls of the deceased, was also found in the tomb. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)

In January, archaeologists announced the discovery of ancient tombs in the Nile Delta north of Cairo. In a separate project, two ancient tombs dating back to the Roman period were uncovered in Egypt’s Western Desert.

In November 2018, researchers confirmed the discovery of eight limestone sarcophagi containing mummies at a site 25 miles south of Cairo. Last year, researchers also uncovered a "massive" building that was once part of Egypt’s ancient capital city.

In another project, archaeologists discovered a stunning sphinx statue at an ancient temple in southern Egypt.

The Ba-Bird statuette. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)

Last summer, experts unlocked the secrets of a mysterious ancient ‘cursed’ black granite sarcophagus. The massive coffin, which was excavated in the city of Alexandria, was found to contain three skeletons and gold sheets with the remains.

Archaeologists also found the oldest solid cheese in the tomb of Ptahmes, mayor of the ancient city of Memphis.

A coffin fragment recovered from the tomb. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)

A host of artifacts were discovered in the tomb. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)

A mummy buried in southern Egypt more than 5,000 years ago has also revealed its grisly secrets, shedding new light on prehistoric embalming practices.

Fox News’ Chris Ciaccia and The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Temple of Doom: Scientists Discover Peruvian Tomb Filled with Mummies, Infants

If this isn't the opening scene of the next installment of 'The Mummy,' we don't know what is.


While excavating the pre-hispanic Pachacama site on the Pacific coast of Peru, a team of archaeologists from Brussels recently made a huge — and eerie — discovery. Apparently, the team unearthed a burial chamber filled with more than 80 mummies and a dozen curiously placed infant remains. The skeletons of the newborns appear to have been arranged around the perimeter of the tomb, in what scientists say may have been a sacrificial ceremony.

Dating back to 1,000 AD, the 66-ft.-long, oval-shaped burial chamber somehow evaded pillagers, and remains in surprisingly good condition. Alongside the skeletons lie other ancient artifacts, including ceramics, animal remains, and copper, according to Science Daily News.

Though still in the early stages of research, the scientists say the area may have been a type of healing center, because some of the remains show signs of illness. Located approximately 19 miles outside of Lima, the Pachacama site is under consideration by UNESCO as a possible World Heritage site.

As the ancient home of one of South America’s largest Inca and Hurai civilizations, the site has attracted copious attention from researchers over the years. Excavation on the site began in the late 1800s with the arrival of a German archaeologist, Max Uhle. In the past 20 years, archaeologists have made a number of remarkable discoveries in Pachacama, including several pyramids and a cemetery.

Mummies share their secrets

CT scans at the Field Museum in Chicago helped confirm the age and sex of seven Egyptian and three Peruvian mummies. A scan of this Egyptian mummy revealed it to be a woman about 40 years old.

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October 26, 2011 at 1:52 pm

One afternoon, Ron Beckett, a professor at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., left his lab, taking some research home with him. The university labs were being remodeled, and security was a question. Carefully assisting his elderly passenger into the back seat, Beckett buckled her in for safety. As the two traveled to Beckett’s home, the passenger sat very still and didn’t make conversation — because she’s a 1,000-year-old Peruvian mummy!

Mummies are alive with information, and scientists like Beckett are helping to unlock what these time travelers have to say. Cutting-edge technology such as CT, or CAT, scans and endoscopes are allowing scientists to see not just what’s underneath the wrappings but also what’s inside a mummy’s body.

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As villagers watch, Ron Beckett uses an endoscope—a tiny medical camera—to peer inside a mummy coffin. Perched high on a cliff above the village of Koke, in Papua New Guinea, are several mummified elders—the hand of one can be seen in the upper lefthand corner of the photo. Andrew Nelson

Mummies have been discovered all over the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania and South America. Most people think of a mummy as a body wrapped in yards and yards of linen. But a mummy doesn’t have to be wrapped. Technically, any preserved body with some hair, skin and muscles is a mummy.

Mummies can be human-made. Ancient Egyptians are probably the most famous mummy makers. They dried out bodies with salts, then removed the internal organs that would decay and placed them in containers called canopic jars. Afterward, the bodies were wrapped in long swaths of linen.

Ancient Peruvians preserved their dead as well. People of Papua New Guinea mummified some of their dead through a smoking process — much as sausages and other meats are preserved today.

When conditions are just right, nature can mummify bodies. Preserved people have been found in the spongy peat bogs of northern Europe. Dry caves, deserts and frozen temperatures have also preserved people and animals that lived hundreds — even thousands — of years ago. This has allowed modern scientists to “meet” these ancients.

Technology helps mummies talk

While on assignment for National Geographic in 2008 and again in 2010, Beckett traveled to Papua New Guinea. He was there to study the mummy of Moimango, the father of a chief of the Anga tribe. Reaching this remote mummy proved challenging. For instance, Beckett crossed one treacherous bridge: a single log about 10 inches across and slippery from a persistent tropical downpour. Ever so slowly, in the dark and with no safety ropes, Beckett used it to cross a raging river.

A medical examination of Ötzi, or L’uomo venuto dal ghiaccio, “the man who came from the ice,” revealed information about the mummy’s life, including his last meal—a mountain goat. South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology

Moimango, like other mummified chiefs and clan members before him, normally sits in a chair atop a 1,000-foot-high cliff overlooking the village of Koke (KO’ kay). Villagers recently carried Moimango down. Covered in a layer of clay, Moimango’s dried remains had a bright reddish color. But he was in very bad condition after 50 years out in the open. Lichens were growing on his toes and fingers, and some of those digits were barely attached. Facial bones lay bare and some skin had peeled away from his face.

Beckett brought along an especially helpful tool called an endoscope to study Moimango. An endoscope is a tiny camera about as big as a standard pencil eraser that can be snaked into a small opening on the body. Such a tool lets scientists see things that would otherwise be invisible. Beckett used his endoscope to investigate Moimango’s remaining organs and discovered this mummy had slight gum disease but teeth in good condition. The scope also showed nesting materials from a tiny rodent, perhaps a field mouse. Moimango’s brain was gone, but in its place Beckett found several wasp’s nests and a few very active wasps.

Recently, Beckett used X-rays to solve a mystery surrounding a 4,000-year-old Egyptian mummy. Pa-Ib (pronounced pie eeb) is part of the collection at the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, Conn. Not much was known about this mummy. Ancient Egyptian writing on the coffin suggested this ancient had been male. And legend had it that the body hosted another mummy — of a bird. Beckett puzzled over how he might confirm these suspicions without unwrapping the mummy.

He decided to investigate using high-tech lab instruments.

Along with his Quinnipiac colleague Gerald Conlogue, Beckett carefully packed the mummy in acid-free paper and plastic bubble-wrap material. Then they placed Pa-Ib in a special container to protect the fragile remains during transport. Escorted by police, the mummy rode to the lab in a black sport utility vehicle.

In their lab, the scientists peered inside Pa-Ib using a machine called a computerized tomography — or CT — scanner. The device resembles a giant doughnut standing on end. As an object moves through the doughnut hole, the scanner takes hundreds of X-rays from a range of different angles. Then a computer processes the information to reconstruct a three-dimensional image of the object.

This scan revealed Pa-Ib had been a woman, not a man, about 5 feet 3 inches tall. Her stomach contained several unusual packets. To evaluate whether one might be a bird, Becket brought a recently mummified bird to scan and compare.

The scientist had found a dead falcon near his Arizona home and had used baking soda, table salt and linen to mummify it. A CT comparison of it and the packets inside Pa-Ib ruled out the presence of any bird inside the ancient Egyptian remains. So what’s inside her packets remains a mystery.

Gregory Thomas at the University of California, Irvine, also probes mummies with CT scanners. In his case, he has been studying the heart and blood vessels in 52 Egyptian mummies at the National Museum of Antiquities in Cairo.

Those X-ray reconstructions revealed several of the mummified individuals had suffered from heart disease. Although this is the leading cause of death in the United States today, scientists had long assumed this was a modern disease. But scans of the 3,500-year-old mummified remains of Princess Ahmose-Meryet-Amon now point to her being the oldest known case of heart disease.

“We are more similar to these ancient people than we thought,” concludes Thomas.

X-ray surprises

The Field Museum in Chicago is using CT scans to learn more about mummies in its collection. These X-ray reconstructions helped confirm the age and gender of seven Egyptian and three Peruvian mummies along with details on the contents and construction of their coffins.

The mummies were placed into a loaned scanner that was inside a trailer parked just outside the museum. Each “patient” was carefully wheeled on a medical gurney down hallways and up ramps to the waiting machine. To keep possible dirt, rain and bird droppings off the mummies, protective cloth covered them along the way.

Adding to the challenge, these mummies were longer than the scanner bed, so each individual had to get two separate scans— head to mid-thigh, and pelvis to feet.

“It was a challenge to keep the humidity and temperature inside the trailer at levels that enabled the machine and computer to work,” remembers J.P. Brown, who works at the Field Museum. “Once the mummies were inside, the scientists had to leave the trailer so their body heat and breath wouldn’t add to the heat and humidity.”

One Egyptian mummy looked great from the outside. But the scans turned up that this particular set of remains had no hips, arms or torso.

“It was a bit of a shocker, and our first reaction was the scanner had broken,” recalls Brown.

Another mummy scan showed tiny plugs, possibly made of wax, that had been placed in the nostrils to help keep the nose’s shape after it had been broken during mummification.

CT scans also offered clues to what ancient peoples ate. This past summer, scientists at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy, announced that they had studied the stomach contents of Ötzi (UHT-zee) and learned what his last meal was. Ötzi, a 5,000-year-old mummy, was discovered by hikers in 1991. The frozen remains had been preserved in glacier ice high in the Alps, along the Austrian-Italian border.

Scientists had searched for Ötzi’s stomach but couldn’t find it. A recent CT scan located it in his upper torso. Ötzi was found facedown, leaning over a rock, and scientists believe this position may have caused his stomach to slip upward. They also think that organ shrinkage might have caused many of his innards to shift their positions.

Researchers were surprised to find Ötzi’s stomach completely full. It contained yellowish and brownish materials along with pieces of grain and meat. The scientists removed a small sample and tested its DNA. It now appears Ötzi had feasted on an Alpine ibex, a type of mountain goat that lived in the region, approximately 30 minutes before his death.

There’s a saying that “Dead men tell no tales.” But thanks to science, this is no longer true. Technology is giving mummies a voice.

Power Words

mummy: A body preserved by natural processes or human technology, with some skin and organs remaining.

canopic jars: Containers used by ancient Egyptians to store the organs of dead people.

embalming: A process that preserves a dead body by preventing it from decaying.

peat bog: A soggy, brown, soil-like material made from decaying plant matter.

13. Ancient Shipwreck in The Namibian Desert

In 2016 diamond miners working the Namibian desert discovered the wreckage of Bom Jesus ship that went down 500 years ago. Although there have been many ships discovered in this area the discovery of the Bom Jesus is considered one of the significant shipwrecks ever found. Not only is the Bom Jesus one of the oldest discoveries in the area but the wreckage contained $13,000,000 worth of gold coins.

The Bom Jesus was a Portuguese ship that went missing 500 years ago en route to India. The ship was loaded with ivory, gold, and most significantly, 44,000 pounds of copper ingots. It was the copper that played the biggest role in the preservation of the ship. It is believed that marine organisms dislike the presence of copper, and the huge amount of copper within the wreckage prevented marine life from eating the wood and leathers that went down with the ship.


At the beginning of the 20th century, European explorers such as Sven Hedin, Albert von Le Coq and Sir Aurel Stein all recounted their discoveries of desiccated bodies in their search for antiquities in Central Asia. [7] Since then, numerous other mummies have been found and analyzed, many of them now displayed in the museums of Xinjiang. Most of these mummies were found on the eastern end of the Tarim Basin (around the area of Lopnur, Subeshi near Turpan, Loulan, Kumul), or along the southern edge of the Tarim Basin (Khotan, Niya, and Cherchen or Qiemo).

The earliest Tarim mummies, found at Qäwrighul and dated to 1800 BCE, are of a Caucasian physical type whose closest affiliation is to the Bronze Age populations of southern Siberia, Kazakhstan, Central Asia, and the Lower Volga. [2]

The cemetery at Yanbulaq contained 29 mummies which dated from 1100–500 BCE, 21 of which are Mongoloid—the earliest Mongoloid mummies found in the Tarim Basin—and eight of which are of the same Caucasian physical type as found at Qäwrighul. [2]

Notable mummies are the tall, red-haired "Chärchän man" or the "Ur-David" (1000 BCE) his son (1000 BCE), a small 1-year-old baby with brown hair protruding from under a red and blue felt cap, with two stones positioned over its eyes the "Hami Mummy" (c. 1400–800 BCE), a "red-headed beauty" found in Qizilchoqa and the "Witches of Subeshi" (4th or 3rd century BCE), who wore 2-foot-long (0.61 m) black felt conical hats with a flat brim. [8] Also found at Subeshi was a man with traces of a surgical operation on his abdomen the incision is sewn up with sutures made of horsehair. [9]

Many of the mummies have been found in very good condition, owing to the dryness of the desert and the desiccation it produced in the corpses. The mummies share many typical Caucasian body features (tall stature, high cheekbones, deep-set eyes), and many of them have their hair physically intact, ranging in color from blond to red to deep brown, and generally long, curly and braided. Their costumes, and especially textiles, may indicate a common origin with Indo-European neolithic clothing techniques or a common low-level textile technology. Chärchän man wore a red twill tunic and tartan leggings. Textile expert Elizabeth Wayland Barber, who examined the tartan-style cloth, discusses similarities between it and fragments recovered from salt mines associated with the Hallstatt culture. [10] As a result of the arid conditions and exceptional preservation, tattoos have been identified on mummies from several sites around the Tarim Basin, including Qäwrighul, Yanghai, Shengjindian, Shanpula (Sampul), Zaghunluq, and Qizilchoqa. [11]

It has been asserted that the textiles found with the mummies are of an early European textile type based on close similarities to fragmentary textiles found in salt mines in Austria, dating from the second millennium BCE. Anthropologist Irene Good, a specialist in early Eurasian textiles, noted the woven diagonal twill pattern indicated the use of a rather sophisticated loom and said that the textile is "the easternmost known example of this kind of weaving technique."

In 1995, Mair claimed that "the earliest mummies in the Tarim Basin were exclusively Caucasoid, or Europoid" with east Asian migrants arriving in the eastern portions of the Tarim Basin around 3,000 years ago while the Uyghur peoples arrived around the year 842. In trying to trace the origins of these populations, Victor Mair's team suggested that they may have arrived in the region by way of the Pamir Mountains about 5,000 years ago.

The new finds are also forcing a reexamination of old Chinese books that describe historical or legendary figures of great height, with deep-set blue or green eyes, long noses, full beards, and red or blond hair. Scholars have traditionally scoffed at these accounts, but it now seems that they may be accurate. [12]

In 2007 the Chinese government allowed a National Geographic Society team headed by Spencer Wells to examine the mummies' DNA. Wells was able to extract undegraded DNA from the internal tissues. The scientists extracted enough material to suggest the Tarim Basin was continually inhabited from 2000 BCE to 300 BCE and preliminary results indicate the people, rather than having a single origin, originated from Europe, Mesopotamia, Indus Valley and other regions yet to be determined. [13]

A 2008 study by Jilin University showed that the Yuansha population has relatively close relationships with the modern populations of South Central Asia and Indus Valley, as well as with the ancient population of Chawuhu. [14] [15]

Between 2009–2015, the remains of 92 individuals found at the Xiaohe Tomb complex were analyzed for Y-DNA and mtDNA markers. Genetic analyses of the mummies showed that the maternal lineages of the Xiaohe people originated from both East Asia and West Eurasia, whereas the paternal lineages all originated from West Eurasia. [16]

Mitochondrial DNA analysis showed that maternal lineages carried by the people at Xiaohe included mtDNA haplogroups H, K, U5, U7, U2e, T and R*, which are now most common in West Eurasia. Also found were haplogroups common in modern populations from East Asia: B5, D and G2a. Haplogroups now common in Central Asian or Siberian populations included: C4 and C5. Haplogroups later regarded as typically South Asian included M5 and M*. [17]

Of the paternal lines of male remains surveyed nearly all – 11 out of 12, or around 92% – belonged to Y-DNA haplogroup R1a1, which are now most common in Northern India and Eastern Europe the other belonged to the exceptionally rare paragroup K* (M9). [18] The R1a1 lineage suggests a proximity of this population with groups related to the Andronovo culture, i.e. early Indo-Europeans. [19]

The geographic location of this admixing is unknown, although south Siberia is likely. [16]

Chinese historian Ji Xianlin says China "supported and admired" research by foreign experts into the mummies. "However, within China a small group of ethnic separatists have taken advantage of this opportunity to stir up trouble and are acting like buffoons. Some of them have even styled themselves the descendants of these ancient 'white people' with the aim of dividing the motherland. But these perverse acts will not succeed." [5] Barber addresses these claims by noting that "The Loulan Beauty is scarcely closer to 'Turkic' in her anthropological type than she is to Han Chinese. The body and facial forms associated with Turks and Mongols began to appear in the Tarim cemeteries only in the first millennium BCE, fifteen hundred years after this woman lived." [20] Due to the "fear of fuelling separatist currents", the Xinjiang museum, regardless of dating, displays all their mummies, both Tarim and Han, together. [5]

Mallory and Mair (2000) propose the movement of at least two Caucasian physical types into the Tarim Basin. The authors associate these types with the Tocharian and Iranian (Saka) branches of the Indo-European language family, respectively. [21] However, archaeology and linguistics professor Elizabeth Wayland Barber cautions against assuming the mummies spoke Tocharian, noting a gap of about a thousand years between the mummies and the documented Tocharians: "people can change their language at will, without altering a single gene or freckle." [22]

B. E. Hemphill's biodistance analysis of cranial metrics (as cited in Larsen 2002 and Schurr 2001) has questioned the identification of the Tarim Basin population as European, noting that the earlier population has close affinities to the Indus Valley population, and the later population with the Oxus River valley population. Because craniometry can produce results which make no sense at all (e.g. the close relationship between Neolithic populations in Ukraine and Portugal) and therefore lack any historical meaning, any putative genetic relationship must be consistent with geographical plausibility and have the support of other evidence. [23]

Han Kangxin, who examined the skulls of 302 mummies, found the closest relatives of the earlier Tarim Basin population in the populations of the Afanasevo culture situated immediately north of the Tarim Basin and the Andronovo culture that spanned Kazakhstan and reached southwards into West Central Asia and the Altai. [24]

It is the Afanasevo culture to which Mallory & Mair (2000:294–296, 314–318) trace the earliest Bronze Age settlers of the Tarim and Turpan basins. The Afanasevo culture (c. 3500–2500 BCE) displays cultural and genetic connections with the Indo-European-associated cultures of the Eurasian Steppe yet predates the specifically Indo-Iranian-associated Andronovo culture (c. 2000–900 BCE) enough to isolate the Tocharian languages from Indo-Iranian linguistic innovations like satemization. [25]

Hemphill & Mallory (2004) confirm a second Caucasian physical type at Alwighul (700–1 BCE) and Krorän (200 CE) different from the earlier one found at Qäwrighul (1800 BCE) and Yanbulaq (1100–500 BCE):

This study confirms the assertion of Han [1998] that the occupants of Alwighul and Krorän are not derived from proto-European steppe populations, but share closest affinities with Eastern Mediterranean populations. Further, the results demonstrate that such Eastern Mediterraneans may also be found at the urban centers of the Oxus civilization located in the north Bactrian oasis to the west. Affinities are especially close between Krorän, the latest of the Xinjiang samples, and Sapalli, the earliest of the Bactrian samples, while Alwighul and later samples from Bactria exhibit more distant phenetic affinities. This pattern may reflect a possible major shift in interregional contacts in Central Asia in the early centuries of the second millennium BCE.

Mallory and Mair associate this later (700 BCE–200 CE) Caucasian physical type with the populations who introduced the Iranian Saka language to the western part of the Tarim basin. [26]

From the evidence available, we have found that during the first 1,000 years after the Loulan Beauty, the only settlers in the Tarim Basin were Caucasoid. East Asian peoples only began showing up in the eastern portions of the Tarim Basin about 3,000 years ago, Mair said, while the Uighur peoples arrived after the collapse of the Orkon Uighur Kingdom, largely based in modern day Mongolia, around the year 842. [5]

Chinese sources Edit

Western Regions (Hsi-yu Chinese: 西域 pinyin: Xīyù Wade–Giles: Hsi 1 -yü 4 ) is the historical name in China, between the 3rd century BCE and 8th century CE for regions west of Yumen Pass, including the Tarim and Central Asia. [27]

Some of the peoples of the Western Regions were described in Chinese sources as having full beards, red or blond hair, deep-set blue or green eyes and high noses. [28] According to Chinese sources, the city states of the Tarim reached the height of their political power during the 3rd to 4th centuries CE, [29] although this may actually indicate an increase in Chinese involvement in the Tarim, following the collapse of the Kushan Empire.

The Yuezhi Edit

Reference to the Yuezhi name in Guanzi was made around 7th century BCE by the Chinese economist Guan Zhong, though the book is generally considered to be a forgery of later generations. [30] : 115–127 The attributed author, Guan Zhong, described the Yuzhi 禺氏, or Niuzhi 牛氏, as a people from the north-west who supplied jade to the Chinese from the nearby mountains of Yuzhi 禺氏 at Gansu.

After the Yuezhi experienced a series of major defeats at the hands of the Xiongnu, during the 2nd century BCE, a group known as the Greater Yuezhi migrated to Bactria, where they established the Kushan Empire. By the 1st Century CE, the Kushan Empire had expanded significantly and may have annexed part of the Tarim Basin.

Tocharian languages Edit

The degree of differentiation between the language known to modern scholars as Tocharian A (or by the endonym Ārśi-käntwa "tongue of Ārśi") and Tocharian B (Kuśiññe [adjective] "of Kucha, Kuchean"), as well as the less-well attested Tocharian C (which is associated with the city-state of Krorän, also known as Loulan), and the absence of evidence for these beyond the Tarim, tends to indicate that a common, proto-Tocharian language existed in the Tarim during the second half of the 1st Millennium BCE. Tocharian is attested in documents between the 3rd and 9th centuries CE, although the first known epigraphic evidence dates to the 6th century CE.

Although the Tarim mummies preceded the Tocharian texts by several centuries, their shared geographical location and links to Western Eurasia have led many scholars to infer that the mummies were related to the Tocharian peoples.

The possible presence of speakers of Indo-European languages in the Tarim Basin by about 2000 BCE [31] could, if confirmed, be interpreted as evidence that cultural exchanges occurred among Indo-European and Chinese populations at a very early date. It has been suggested that such activities as chariot warfare and bronze-making may have been transmitted to the east by these Indo-European nomads. [4] Mallory and Mair also note that: "Prior to c. 2000 BC, finds of metal artifacts in China are exceedingly few, simple and, puzzlingly, already made of alloyed copper (and hence questionable)." While stressing that the argument as to whether bronze technology travelled from China to the West or that "the earliest bronze technology in China was stimulated by contacts with western steppe cultures", is far from settled in scholarly circles, they suggest that the evidence so far favours the latter scenario. [32] However, the culture and the technology in the northwest region of Tarim basin were less advanced than that in the East China of Yellow River-Erlitou (2070 BCE

2600 BCE), the earliest bronze-using cultures in China, which implies that the northwest region did not use copper or any metal until bronze technology was introduced to the region by the Shang dynasty in about 1600 BC. The earliest bronze artifacts in China are found at the Majiayao site (between 3100 and 2700 BC), [33] [34] and it is from this location and time period that Chinese Bronze Age spread. Bronze metallurgy in China originated in what is referred to as the Erlitou (Wade–Giles: Erh-li-t'ou ) period, which some historians argue places it within the range of dates controlled by the Shang dynasty. [35] Others believe the Erlitou sites belong to the preceding Xia (Wade–Giles: Hsia ) dynasty. [36] The US National Gallery of Art defines the Chinese Bronze Age as the "period between about 2000 BC and 771 BC," which begins with Erlitou culture and ends abruptly with the disintegration of Western Zhou rule. [37] Though that provides a concise frame of reference, it overlooks the continued importance of bronze in Chinese metallurgy and culture. Since that was significantly later than the discovery of bronze in Mesopotamia, bronze technology could have been imported, rather than being discovered independently in China. However, there is reason to believe that bronzework developed inside China, separately from outside influence. [38] [39]

The Chinese official Zhang Qian, who visited Bactria and Sogdiana in 126 BCE, made the first known Chinese report on many regions west of China. He believed to have discerned Greek influences in some of the kingdoms. He named Parthia "Ānxī" (Chinese: 安息), a transcription of "Arshak" (Arsaces), the name of the founder of Parthian dynasty. [40] Zhang Qian clearly identified Parthia as an advanced urban civilization that farmed grain and grapes and manufactured silver coins and leather goods. [41] Zhang Qian equated Parthia's level of advancement to the cultures of Dayuan in Ferghana and Daxia in Bactria.

The supplying of Tarim Basin jade to China from ancient times is well established, according to Liu (2001): "It is well known that ancient Chinese rulers had a strong attachment to jade. All of the jade items excavated from the tomb of Fuhao of the Shang dynasty by Zheng Zhenxiang, more than 750 pieces, were from Khotan in modern Xinjiang. As early as the mid-first millennium BCE the Yuezhi engaged in the jade trade, of which the major consumers were the rulers of agricultural China."

The Beauty of Loulan (also referred to as the Loulan Beauty) is the most famous of the Tarim mummies, along with the Cherchen Man. [42] She was discovered in 1980 by Chinese archaeologists working on a film about the Silk Road. The mummy was discovered near Lop Nur. She was buried 3 feet beneath the ground. The mummy was extremely well preserved because of the dry climate and the preservative properties of salt. [43] She was wrapped in a woolen cloth the cloth was made of two separate pieces and was not large enough to cover her entire body, thereby leaving her ankles exposed. The Beauty of Loulan was surrounded by funerary gifts. [44] The Beauty of Loulan has been dated back to approximately 1800 BCE. [45]

Life and death Edit

The Beauty of Loulan lived around 1800 BCE, until about the age of 45, when she died. Her cause of death is likely due to lung failure from ingesting a large amount of sand, charcoal, and dust. [43] According to Elizabeth Barber, she probably died in the winter because of her provisions against the cold. [44] The rough shape of her clothes and the lice in her hair suggest she lived a difficult life. [43]

Appearance and clothing Edit

Hair Edit

The Beauty of Loulan's hair colour has been described as auburn. [44] Her hair was infested with lice. [43]

Clothing Edit

The Beauty of Loulan is wearing clothing made of wool and fur. Her hood is made of felt and has a feather in it. [46] She is wearing rough ankle-high moccasins made of leather, with fur on the outside. Her skirt is made of leather, with fur on the inside for warmth. She is also wearing a woolen cap. According to Elizabeth Barber, these provisions against the cold suggest she died during the winter. [44]

Accessories Edit

The Loulan Beauty possesses a comb, with four teeth remaining. Barber suggests that this comb was a dual purpose tool to comb hair and to "pack the weft in tightly during weaving."

She possesses a "neatly woven bag or soft basket." Grains of wheat were discovered inside the bag. [44]

In popular culture Edit

A 23-poem sequence on the Beauty of Loulan appears in the Canadian poet Kim Trainor's Karyotype (2015).

According to Ed Wong's New York Times article from 2008, Mair was actually prohibited from leaving the country with 52 genetic samples. However, a Chinese scientist clandestinely sent him half a dozen, on which an Italian geneticist performed tests. [1]

Since then China has prohibited foreign scientists from conducting research on the mummies. As Wong says, "Despite the political issues, excavations of the grave sites are continuing." [1]

Scientists launch bid to solve mystery of mummified Siberian royals who were found preserved in ice and loved tattoos and CANNABIS

THE mummified bodies of two heavily tattooed ancient chieftains are undergoing extensive tests in a bid to find out why they died.

Archaeologists first dug up the mummified remains of a man and woman in 1949 from a 42 metre-wide burial chamber in the Altai mountains of Siberia.

They pair were buried alongside nine horses, a huge cache of cannabis and a stash of priceless treasures - including the world's oldest carpet and an ornate carriage.

The man had curly hair and was aged between 55 and 60 when he died, whilst the woman was about ten years younger.

It is believed he was a chieftain or king of the Pazyryk civilisation, which lived in Kazakhstan, Siberia and Mongolia from the 6th to 3rd centuries BC.

Now their bodies are set to undergo extensive testing by radiologists, anthropologists and archaeologists, The Siberian Times reports.

It is hoped we will be able to find out a little bit more about the lives of the dead royals and discover what caused them to die.

The scans will be conducted at The Hermitage, a famous museum in St. Petersburg where their bodies have been held since being dug out of the burial mound.

Walk like an Egyptian: The secrets of the world's second most famous mummies

The Pazyryk civilisation mummified dead people in a similar way to the Egyptians. Mummification essentially involves the preservation of dead people's skin and organs.

Bodies are typically exposed to embalming chemicals, dried out or frozen in some way, thus preventing them from decaying any further.

The Pazyryk people were particularly brutal when mummifying their dead: removing the brain through a hole in the skull, pulling out organs and then stuffing the body with horse hair.

Many of the secrets of Egyptian mummification have been lost, but is believed they liquified the brain so it could drain out of a dead person's nose. Their most famous technique involved wrapping the body in cloth, which has given us the popular image of a Mummy which is familiar from horror movies.

The Egyptians are believed to begun mummifying bodies because the dry desert conditions often left bodies perfectly preserved, which may have led people to believe that preserving a person's remains ensured them a good afterlife.

Soviet archaeologist Sergey Rudenko led the original excavation and found the perfectly preserved bodies frozen in ice.

After making the astonishing discovery, he wrote: "Both the man and woman were of Caucasoid type.

"Their hair was soft, the man's a little curly and dark. The woman's dark brown. Their faces were long and narrow, the man had a sharply protruding aquiline nose.

"The man's head, except for the back, was shaved. The woman's head was also shaved, except that on top was a pigtail.

"Both bodies were mummified, using the same method. The skulls were trepanned and the brain was removed. Through a slice in the abdomen, from the ribs to the groin, the intestines were removed.

"In addition, through special sections of the chest, back, arms and legs were removed all the muscles of the body, so that remaining was only the skeleton and skin."

It is believed the ancient royals were then stuffed with horse hair.

Although grave robbers nicked many of the priceless items, they left two carpets behind which are the oldest ever discovered.

They are believed to have been woven in the 5th century BC.

Both the bodies were tattooed with images of real animals, which is quite rare in the Pazyryk culture.

The man had a "feline predator" on his left shoulder and a horse on his right. He also had bird tattoos on his hands.

On the woman's left arms was a complex images of tigers killing a moose, whilst she had a cock on her hand.

It is believed this very detailed tattoo may have been influenced by Chinese art, suggesting the Pazyryk people enjoyed links with cultures which lived far away from their own.

Three-fingered mummies found in Peru are not human says scientist and may be aliens

A SET of three-fingered “mummies” recently discovered in Peru are not human and could be aliens, a scientist has claimed.

Three-fingered mummies found in Peru could be aliens.

Three-fingered mummies found in Peru could be aliens

Three-fingered mummies found in Peru are not human, scientists say. Picture: YouTube Source:Supplied

A SET of three-fingered “mummies” recently discovered in Peru are not human and could be aliens, a scientist has claimed.

The Sun reports Professor Konstantin Korotkov, from the Russian National Research University, as saying the supposedly ancient remains are humanoid but not homo sapien.

Prof Korotkov has examined mummies found by colleagues in Nazca, Peru, which date back as far as 6500 years.

He told Sputnik News: �h of the little mummies has two arms, two legs, a head, a pair of eyes and a mouth.

“Tomographic scans reveal their skeletons.

Three-fingered mummies found in Peru are not human, scientists say. Picture: YouTube Source:Supplied

“The tissue has biological nature and their chemical composition indicates that they are humans.

“Their DNA features 23 pairs of chromosomes, just like we have.

𠇊ll the four of them are males, each with a Y-chromosome.

“They appear human but they are not.”

Scientists examine three-fingered mummies found in Peru. Picture: Supplied Source:Supplied

Another skeletal specialist, Dr Edson Vivanco, has also concluded the remains are of “non-human beings”, Daily Express reported.

While the bizarre three-fingered and three-toed corpses have been branded fake by other scientists, Dr Vivanco said: “There are lots of details that indicate that the bodies are real.

“To recreate a skull with these characteristics is a very difficult task.”

The scientist insists if they were fake, he would be the 𠇏irst to say and report it”.

Three-fingered mummies found in Peru are not human, scientists say. Picture: YouTube Source:Supplied

He added: “Right now, we are studying the evidence. And so far, we haven’t found anything to say it is a fraud, or that the bodies have been modified or altered in any way.

“We have lots of evidence that sets us on the path to prove that this is real.”

Footage of the so-called mummified alien was released in June last year in the ancient city of Nazca, Peru.

The video was posted by website Gaia.com which charges curious users money to view their exclusive paranormal content.

Three-fingered mummies found in Peru are not human, scientists say. Picture: YouTube Source:Supplied

The site claims the extraterrestrial beast’s body was dug up during an excavation of the mysterious caves.

Sceptic viewers pointed out the 𠇌orpse” looks like it is a half-finished cardboard creation.

One viewer reported commented: “Something seems off. The corpse looks like it was made of plaster.”

Earlier this year, The Sun reported how the 𠇍iscovery” prompted a number of experts and conspiracy theorists to offer their opinion.

Professor Konstantin Korotkov says three-fingered mummies found in Peru are not human. Picture: YouTube Source:Supplied

In a short documentary on the bizarre find, Dr Konstantin Korotkov, a professor at Saint Petersburg University, claimed these features are not a deformity — claiming they are 𠇊nother creature, another humanoid”.

This article originally appeared in The Sun and is republished here with permission

Scientists find world's oldest figural tattoos on Egyptian mummies

March 1 (UPI) -- Scientists have discovered a pair of ancient tattoos on two 5,000-year-old Egyptian mummies. They are the oldest figural tattoos yet found, pushing back the advent of tattooing in Africa some 1,000 years.

The body art was found on a pair of mummies in the collection of the British Museum. The male and female were embalmed and laid to rest sometime between 3351 and 3017 BC.

A depiction of a wild bull and Barbary sheep mark the upper bicep of the male, while the female is inked with S-shaped motifs on her upper arm and shoulder. Scientists believe soot was used to create the tattoos.

The mummies were found more than a 100 years ago in Gebelein, an ancient city in southern Upper Egypt. A century later, they're offering up new secrets. Scientists discovered the ancient tattoos with the help of advanced imaging technology, specifically infrared imaging.

"Only now are we gaining new insights into the lives of these remarkably preserved individuals," Daniel Antoine, the museum's curator of physical anthropology, said in a news release.

Until now, scientists thought only women sported tattoos, but the practice was apparently enjoyed by both genders. Archaeologists believe the tattoos denoted status and bravery.

Scientists shared their discovery in a new paper published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Tattoos weren't uncommon during prehistory. In 2016, scientists shared the discovery of a woman, a mummy from dynastic Egypt, with animal and flower tattoos -- at the time, the first non-geometric tattoos.

A female Alpine mummy of similar age as the Gebelein mummies has previously revealed evidence of tattoos, but only of the geometric sort.

It's possible older evidence of tattooing is out there to be found. In the wake of the British Museum's find, archaeologists are likely to use infrared imaging to re-examine many of the mummies stored in museums around the world.

Pottery figurines found in Japan suggests the practice of tattoo art has been present on the Asian island for 12,000 years.

'Alien' mummies from Peru have human chromosome numbers, but not anatomy – scientists

Preliminary analysis of the tissue samples revealed that the mummy, found in a tomb near the Nazca lines of Peru and named Maria, is a &ldquohumanoid being&rdquo with 23 pairs of chromosomes &ndash so far, so human. It dates back to about the 5th century AD, a full millennium before Europeans discovered America.

A professor of the National Research University in St. Petersburg, Konstantin Korotkov, and Natalya Zaloznaya, radiologist and specialist in computer tomography at the International Biological Systems Institute, collected the tissue samples in Peru and brought them back to St. Petersburg for analysis.

Professor Korotkov is known for his research into dubious scientific phenomena. He is, among other things, a proponent of the use of 1930s photography techniques to create images of peoples' auras, which he claims can be used to diagnose illness in place of X-ray scans and tomography. He also claims to have found proof of life after death and filmed the activity of a dead person's soul.

Korotkov believes Maria could be a representative of a certain race that evolved much earlier than we did, &ldquomaybe thousands of years earlier,&rdquo he said. The professor hypothesized that this race may have perished as a result of a flood or a comet strike.

The team is now keen to find out how Maria&rsquos composition resembles that of people in South America, Africa or elsewhere. &ldquoRight now we are making a detailed analysis to see if the position of all the chromosomes, of all the amino acids, coincides with ours,&rdquosaid Korotkov to Mir 24.

X-ray and computer tomography showed Maria has a very different rib structure to that of humans. Keel-shaped in the upper part with a handful of semicircular ribs, the cage protects the creature&rsquos internal organs, which do resemble those of humans.

"We clearly see the contours of the trachea and the bronchi, of the heart and its chambers we can even see the shape of the valves. We can also see quite clearly the contours of the diaphragm, the liver and the spleen," explains Zaloznaya.

Scientists also found Maria was embalmed in a cadmium chloride white powder, the antibacterial effect of which has preserved Maria to this day.

The researchers are now working closely with their Peruvian colleagues to continue deciphering the genome and break its DNA code, reports Mir 24. They&rsquore even hopeful of one day convincing authorities to bring the mummy to Russia.

Aside from Maria, Professor Korotkov witnessed four more mummies in Peru, all male with a DNA of 23 pairs of chromosomes, like us. However, &ldquothey appear human but they are not. Their anatomic structure is different&rdquo says Korotkov.

&ldquoThey could be extraterrestrials or bio robots&rdquo.

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Watch the video: Is the Inca Maiden the Worlds Best-Preserved Mummy? (May 2022).