The mummy returns: Ming Dynasty woman exhumed
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Saturday 05 March 2011
She died many centuries ago, but her mummified corpse and clothing have been almost perfectly preserved despite being buried for hundreds of years in a wooden tomb a few feet beneath a busy street in the city of Taizhou, eastern China.
The high-ranking woman was wearing expensive cotton and silk clothing from the Ming Dynasty, which ruled China between 1368 and 1644. Chinese archaeologists excavating the site were amazed by the mummy's remarkably preserved skin, eyebrows and clothes.
When she was discovered by road workers, her body was immersed in a brown liquid, which may have aided preservation. Wang Weiyin, director of the local museum, said mummifying technology was used only in high-profile funerals. Natural mummification occurs when either a corpse quickly dries out, which can occur in a desert, or it becomes waterlogged with no oxygen and so no bacterial degradation.
The woman, who was just under 5ft tall, was buried wearing a ring on the right hand in a coffin containing bones, ceramics and other ancient relics. Her identity is not known but she is one of a handful of high-ranking people whose mummified bodies have been unearthed in the region during the past 30 years.
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