While preserving or mummifying the dead is normally associated with the ancient Egyptians, it seems to have been a ritual followed by many other cultures too. Earlier this month, Chinese workers digging to expand a road near the city of Taizhou, in China's Jiangsu Province, stumbled upon an exciting discovery - three wooden tombs, which when opened not only revealed treasures from the past, but also, an amazingly well-preserved mummy - complete with face, hair and even eyelashes.
Found just two meters below the ground, the body of the 4ft.11in woman, immersed in brown liquid, was in such pristine condition, that even her traditional silk and cotton costume was intact, as were her shoes. The elegant lady also sported a silver hairpin on her hair and a Jade ring on her right hand. Found beside her in the coffin were some bones, ceramics, ancient writings and other artifacts.
Judging from technique used, the luxury items she was wearing and the more than 20 pieces of Ming-dynasty clothing next to her, archeologists speculate that she came from a rich family. However, thanks to her ordinary headgear, devoid of the Ming dynasty identifying phoenix or dragon emblem, they concluded that she was not a member of the royal Ming family that ruled China from 1368-1644. While her age has not been determined, early observations lead them to believe, that she was probably a young adult.
This is not the first time a well-preserved corpse has been found in area. Five mummies were discovered between 1979 and 2008. However, in some cases, due to lack of experience, scientists were able to preserve only the clothing, belts and clamps.
Archeologists are still divided about why these mummies are perfectly preserved. Some, like Professor Victor Mair from the University of Pennsylvania, believe it is purely accidental and attributes it to the liquid the body was immersed in, as the primary reason. According to him, since the liquid traps out all oxygen, it keeps at bay the bacteria that would normally cause the body to decay. Others disagree - They believe that it was either the superior construction of the coffins or something that was mixed in with the water, that helped preserve the body.
Whatever the reason, these kind of amazing discoveries is what gives us a glimpse into the life led during the great Ming era, which was responsible for the restoration of the Grand Canal and the Great Wall of China, as well as, the construction of China's famous, Forbidden City.
Once archeologists complete their examination, the newly found specimen will be laid to rest alongside the other similar discoveries in the Museum of Taizhou - We have a feeling this young lady will be almost as popular as Otzi the Iceman!
Resources: chinive.com, dailymail.co.uk, nationalgeographic.com,china.org.cn.