Watchman Willie Martin Archive


       Tarim Basin Mummies


       Sat, 24 Mar 2001 00:31:47 ‑0800


       Dwyer <[email protected]>


       Barbara Hamrick <[email protected]>,

       Dwyer <[email protected]>

This is the garden of eden. This is where the white

race was cast down

to earth to redeem the true children of Israel.

Is‑sons Ra‑rule El‑ya

yahweh...Click on the photo....

 Who were they?

 Even a cursory look at the photos of the mummies in the Tarim Basin

 reveals that they were not Asians. Their long noses, high foreheads, brown

 and red hair, not to mention their brightly coloured twill clothing, immediately

 brings Europe to mind.

 That the bodies are preserved in the state they are found is remarkable.

 Many look like they have just laid down to sleep and we have rudely

 interrupted them. Before looking at the preliminary examinations of the DNA

 from the mummies, we should explore the reason for their excellent


 To begin with, the term "mummy" used up to this point, is incorrect. By using

 this word, it is implied that someone set about to embalm the bodies of the

 deceased. The embalming process involves the removal of the body's organs

 and rinsing out the fluids. If this is not done, the micro‑organisms in the

 stomach begin to devour the body. It bloats, and finally dehydration causes all

 the flesh to sink into the skeleton. This mummification process is mostly

 associated with the ancient Egyptians.

     The bodies found in the Tarim Basin were buried complete with all their

 internal organs. There is evidence of an unknown yellow material made of

 protein which was smeared onto some of the bodies. It's also true that where

 this material was used (usualy under clothing) the flesh is better preserved.

 However, it was not this material that kept the bodies in such excellent


 The climate of the Tarim Basin ranges from temperature extremes of ‑20 to

 +50 degrees celcius with an annual rainfall of less that 100 mm. This,

 combined with the high salt levels in the ground hinders the growth of bacteria

 and presents the perfect conditions for preservation.

 For this reason, the correct term to use instead of mummies, is desiccated

 corpses, which means they are dried‑out.

 We can move now to look at the results of preliminary DNA testing that has

 been carried out on the mummies (this word just carries more flavour).

 The study of mitochondrial DNA with respect to archaeology is a relatively

 new discipline which attempts to bridge the gap between physical

 anthropology and poplulation genetics. It does so by using ancient samples

 as physical anthropology does, but at the molecular level.

 In any examination of ancient DNA, there are extra precautions which must be

 carried out because the ancient DNA in the samples degrades and mixes with

 acids from other micro‑organisms.

 Nature is not the only challenge to preserving and reading ancient samples;

 throughout the whole process of site excavation and the extraction of

 samples, field workers must avoid contaminating the bodies. In fact,

 contamination can take place at many levels,

    During the burials, foreign DNA from anyone present may come in

    contact with the body

    multiple burials over time at the same site can also mix DNA from several

    individuals and time periods

    within the labratory, foreign DNA from researchers and other specimens

    poses a contamination threat.

 With the mummies in the Tarim Basin, there have been

 many possible opportunities for contamination to occur. In

 fact, since the conditions of the museums in Xinjiang are

 not sufficient to offer the mummies a safe home, the

 corpses are often reburried in their graves after cursory

 examinations. In order to avoid any modern DNA

 contamination, the samples were often taken from beneath

 the wollen clothing.

 The field work and subsequent labratory work has been carried out by Paolo

 Francalacci, a geneticist with the Anthropology Institute at the University of

 Sassari in Italy and one of the first group of Western academics to travel to

 visit the mummies in the Tarim Basin. Under his guidance, 25 tissue and bone

 samples were taken from eleven corpses found near Hami in eastern Xinjiang,

 although tests have been carried out on only 5 of those samples.

 Early tests seem to point to origins to the west and around the meditteranean.

 This observation was arrived at by comparing the number of changes in the

 DNA sequence of the Tarim Basin Mummies from the sequence that is

 commonly considered the "concrete individual of European origin." Those

 peoples closer to Europe show a smaller number of changes in the sequence

 than those further away. What the samples from the Caucasoid corpses in

 Xinjiang show is that they are more closely related to Europe than their Asian

 neighbours. However, at the moment, it is still too early to pinpoint the exact

 area where these people originated.

 It should also be remembered that DNA sampling can only reveal the genetic

 lineage of a group, and not the cultural evolution and linguistic development

 which has led them to where they were found. As Francalacci states, the

 evolution of the "ancient Xinjiang people is somewhat more complicated than

 the knowledge of a fragment of DNA, and it can be understood only by an

 integrated vision of genetic, linguistic, historical, archaeological and

 anthropological records."   Francallaci in JIES 396.


 While the genetic research continues, another technique can be used to

 determine the identity of the mummies: the study of skulls. Research has

 been conducted by HAN Kangxin, a physical anthropologist with the Chinese

 Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing on several hundred skulls found in the

 Xinjiang region. By measuring the crania and structure of the skulls,

 anthropologists have concluded that the majority of the inhabitants of the

 Tarim Basin from 1800 BC until the last few centuries BC were predominantly


 However, the research has also shown that there were many different groups

 living in the Tarim Basin including those with Nordic roots, some from the

 Meditteranean, Russian Steppe peoples called the Andronovo culture and


 The table below is a break down of where most of the skulls were found, and

 what they tell us about the people who once lived in these areas.

 Konch Darya‑ 70 km

 west of Lop Nor

                   18 skulls


                   two time


                             Definately European with Nordic

                            features. Earliest skulls close to

                            Afansievo culture (3rd millenium).

                            Later skulls close to Andronovo

                             horizon (2nd millenium).

                            Earlier skulls found are close to

                            Nordic and East Meditteranean.


                   29 adult


                            21 were East Asian Mongloids, 8 were

                            Caucasoid like above.

                            Both groups shared the same burial

                            ground and customs.

 Monghol Kora‑ Tekes

 River Valley of

 the "Celestial

 Mountains" (Tian


                  11  skulls

                            All the skulls are European

                            10 skulls are brachycephalic (broad

                            and short)

                            1 is mesocephalic (medium sized)

                            Date from 2400‑1800 BP

 Sampul near Lop Nor

                   56 skulls

                            2200 BP. East Meditteranean

                            caucasoids with Central Asian



                   6 skulls

                            5 are caucasoid. Indo‑Afghan pattern.

                    Mair in JIES 289‑293

 Together, the cranial studies and the elementary DNA analysis point to a wide

 range of peoples living side‑by‑side in the Tarim Basin region during this

 period. This may have an impact on the commonly accepted date for the

 opening of the silk road in the 2nd century BC. This will be looked at more

 closely in the page about how they lived. When researchers gain more

 access to the corpses for DNA sampling and anthropological studies, the full

 extent of early cultural trade may come to light.





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