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China: Secrets of the Silk Road
at the Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, California
Recommendation by Liz Goldner

Continuing through July 25, 2010

While Egyptian mummies continue to fascinate, the mummies in "China: Secrets of the Silk Road" are far more attractive than other millennia-old corpses we have seen. The three mummies in the "China" show are free of the characteristic darkened and shriveled skin (due to chemicals) associated with Egyptian versions. These 2-4,000 year old "Chinese" mummies, discovered in only the last three decades in the Far Western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China, were mummified naturally due to the extreme cold and dry climate of the region.

"Yingpan Man" arrives with gold foil, white mask and beautiful robes. The entire "Beauty of Xiaohe" is here, with her blonde strands of hair showing. Tiny "Baby Blue Bonnet," an approximately three-month-old child wearing a woven blue and red bonnet, appears almost to be sleeping with its shockingly natural looking skin. Further, contrary to what excavators might expect to find in a remote Asian site, these mummies are light skinned, round eyed, with long noses and red or blonde hair. These racial traits provide evidence that this seemingly isolated site was part of an ancient silk road through which people from Europe, the Middle East and Asia traveled and co-mingled.

Accompanying the mummies are more than 150 equally well-preserved artifacts, including clothing, textiles, wood and bone implements, coins, documents, jewel-encrusted gold objects, vessels, masks and jewelry. These discoveries are not only a boon to historians researching ancient China; they are so well preserved that many appear as though they have been recently crafted.

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