Image: Tian Chen mummy, head
Tian Chen mummy, close-up of head.
- © Australian Museum
Mummies from four burial sites between the Tian Shan ('Celestial Mountains') of north-west China and the Taklimakan Desert. They are of Indo-European appearance with red or blonde hair and wear colourful woollen clothing. They date from 4000 to 2300 years ago, and are in a better state of preservation than many Egyptian mummies. They were buried in the driest, saltiest part of Central Asia during winter, in bottomless coffins that allowed the freezing air to circulate. Their bodies froze and dried out before decay could set in.