Xiaohe: a 4000-year-old Desert Cemetery
September 8, 2018 4:25 PM   Subscribe

In the far eastern edge of the desolate Taklamakan Desert, hundreds of kilometers from the nearest settlement, a clump of dense wooden stakes mark the spot of a 4,000-year-old cemetery. The cemetery was discovered in the early 20th century by a local hunter named Ördek. The Uighur hunter was wandering through a patch of the inhospitable desert when he stumbled across the forest of wooden poles with human bones and ancient religious artifacts littered around. Believing the place to be haunted, he hurried away never to return again.
posted by MovableBookLady (9 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
And here is the link to Wikipedia info: Tarim Mummies
posted by MovableBookLady at 4:27 PM on September 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

And to Elizabeth Wayland Barber's The Mummies of Urumchi, full of thought and experiment to reconstruct their textiles and textile history.
posted by clew at 6:20 PM on September 8, 2018 [10 favorites]

Wow, that's something.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:57 PM on September 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm just kinda astounded to think that say roughly 200 generations have passed since that point (assuming 20 year generations). Could we even conceive of us lasting that long? What would The Beauty of Loulan have thought if she knew we'd be staring at her on display this far ahead of time?
posted by drewbage1847 at 10:25 PM on September 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

That is an amazing archaeological site, but can you imagine just stumbling across it while alone out in the wilderness? I’m not superstitious but it would freak me the fuck out and I don’t blame Ördek for not wanting to go back.
posted by TedW at 3:02 AM on September 9, 2018 [13 favorites]

Wow, this is unreal!
posted by the thought-fox at 6:05 AM on September 9, 2018

Also noteworthy:
In the women’s coffins, the Chinese archaeologists encountered one or more life-size wooden phalluses laid on the body or by its side. Looking again at the shaping of the 13-foot poles that rise from the prow of each woman’s boat, the archaeologists concluded that the poles were in fact gigantic phallic symbols.

The men’s boats, on the other hand, all lay beneath the poles with bladelike tops. These were not the oars they had seemed at first sight, the Chinese archaeologists concluded, but rather symbolic vulvas that matched the opposite sex symbols above the women’s boats. “The whole of the cemetery was blanketed with blatant sexual symbolism,” Dr. Mair wrote. In his view, the “obsession with procreation” reflected the importance the community attached to fertility.
posted by peeedro at 10:11 AM on September 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

Beautiful. I don't understand how this could survive this long in sand dunes without becoming uncovered and scattered.
posted by bongo_x at 9:44 PM on September 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

the importance the community attached to fertility.

I wondered if the shrinking lake was unhealthily full of something that's bad for development. Selenium, etc.

Do we know if they had trade links?
posted by clew at 12:43 AM on September 12, 2018

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