Some random notes I found of interest about Yingpan Man: the “boots” were almost just little sacks for the feet, and clearly not designed for walking. My guess were that they were ceremonial, intended just for the burial. Also those little curving items visible on the tops of the boots and up on the chest are tiny decorated pieces of gold. I don’t know what their meaning to the Yingpan people was, but I’ll try to scan in my quick sketch of their pattern later. The different-looking parts of the sleeves looked like later add-ons to me, curiously enough.
Interestingly, what looks like a set of doll’s clothing on the man’s abdomen is a nice imitation of his own clothing — and he had several of these in the tomb with him. What makes it doubly interesting is the nearly 4000 year old woman had something similar buried with her too, despite her much simpler clothing styles: a little wooden humanoid figure wrapped in a tiny blanket just like she was, with slim, inscribed wooden pins holding the blanket in place — again, just like the ones on her. Further, this is not unique to these two mummies. Burying tiny copies of the deceased person’s clothing was clearly of some incredibly important ritual significance — because the habit of doing so stuck around for 2000 years.
Finally, the Yingpan Man’s remarkable mask should be mentioned. Not only is that a layer of gold foil over the forehead — and part of me so wants to know why?! -but also the face itself is very clearly Caucasian. It’s not as obvious in the photo, but it is when you can lean over and look on all sides. Further, we had another gold death mask for what was clearly a Mongoloid type of face, and when you walked back and forth between the two of them you could really pick out the differences.
Yingpan Man’s face is longer and slimmer than the other mask, with a cute little pencil-thin mustache. His nose is long and thin, standing tall all along the length of the face between cheeks with long planes. His lips were also thin, and I think those black lines on the side were supposed to be indicators of where his face ended and started the curve into the back of his head. Finally, the mask is white, as opposed to the warmer gold tones of the other death mask.
The final mummy I got to see is the so-called Beauty of Xiaohe (try here if that link is dead), which is apparently pronounced a bit like ‘ksyow-HUH.’ There is a more famous female mummy found near Loulan that is also very well preserved — although not quite as well as Beauty of Xiaohe — which has a similar type of name: she is known as the Beauty of Loulan. I am not sure, but I think she’s more famous simply because she was found before Beauty of Xiaohe was found.
What perplexes me is this obsession we have with the supposed prettiness of these dead women. Why are all the well-preserved female mummies always known as ‘Beauty of [town-name]’? Is it really that important that they appeal to our modern day sensibilities? Is it absolutely necessary to fake up drawings of what the women would have looked like while alive, and assure each other that she’d have made an attractive wife? (if you think I’m overstating the case, this actually happened!) Can we not appreciate these remarkable women unless and until we have reduced them to attractively sexual entities?
The males are usually given titles like Yingpan Man, or Ur-David. They’re not Beauty of Yingpan or Male Beauty of Urumchi. Why aren’t the women just Loulan Woman, or Xiaohe Woman — or even something like Ur-Rachael? I think I shall refer henceforth to the woman mummy I saw by what I believe is a more respectful title: Xiaohe Woman.
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Coming back to writing this later, after a pleasant day spent helping out at the Rosicrucian Museum’s “Hidden in Plain Sight” conference (more on that later), I have some interesting new information. One of the presenters at the conference was chatting with me about the Tarim Basin mummies. He’d actually visited the area, and pointed out to me that the Chinese culture is one where female attractiveness is still the most important characteristic about them. Further, referring to someone to their face as “beauty” is apparently commonplace, somewhat as we might call someone “good lookin’,” I think.
So while I still don’t agree with judging a person solely on the basis of their looks, I now have a better idea of the reasoning behind the name choices on the women mummies discovered so far. More on Xiaohe Woman tomorrow!