- Additional Info
The mummy is an adult male with caucasoid facial features. While an early estimate suggested that had been 198 cm (6 feet 6 inches) tall, the archaeologists J. P. Mallory and Victor Mair put the man's height at no more than 165 cm (5' 5"). His hair was "reddish brown flecked with grey, framing high cheekbones", he had an "aquiline" "long nose, full lips and a ginger beard", and was wearing "a red twill tunic" and leggings with a pattern resembling "tartan." Yellow and reddish patterns on the face of Cherchen Man have been identified as tattoos in some sources, but are more likely ochre paint. The man is often described as looking "like a Bronze Age European" and/or as resembling "a Celt", However, Cherchen Man was more likely connected to the so-called Afanasevo culture – an Indo-European people located in Siberia during the 4th and 3rd Millenia BCE.
The exceptional preservation of ancient remains recovered from the Tarim Basin was enabled by natural mummification – a result of the arid conditions. Other such remains have also been recovered at sites throughout the Tarim, including Qäwrighul, Yanghai, Shengjindian, Shanpula, and Qizilchoqa. Like other mummies from the Tarim, Cherchen Man was buried in a tomb made of mud bricks topped with reeds and brush.
DNA testing confirmed definitively that the Cherchen Man and those buried with him were indeed of European decent. Yet how he ended up in China is still an unsolved mystery. Carbon dating of items found in the tomb itself confirmed it was an ancient site and not a modern hoax. The dry salty air of the tomb is responsible for the perfect condition of the mummy and the artifacts which include wheat, wool cloths and blankets and even a baby bottle.
He is especially well-preserved due to the conditions he was buried in. The desert's dry conditions as well as its salty soil provided a suitable climate for mummification. Extremely cold temperatures would have killed any bacteria that contributed to the decay, and the "thick clothes and socks made of rainbow-colored wool" suggest he was buried in the winter.
- J. Hare, The mysteries of the Gobi Desert. Taylor & Francis, 2009
- (2006). "The Desert Makes MUMMIES". Ask 5(2), 13.