The Tarim Mummies

The Tarim Mummies

Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West

  1. J. P. Mallory
  2. Victor H. Mair
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  • ISBN 9780500283721
  • 25.50 x 17.40 cm
  • Paperback
  • 352pp
  • 190 Illustrations, 13 in colour
  • First published 2008
‘A gripping tale, told with verve’ – The Times Higher Education Supplement
‘Excellent and informative.... This book is essential reading for anyone interested in archaeology and ancient history’ – Journal of Anthropological Research


The best-preserved mummies in the world are not found in Egypt or Peru but in the museums of Xinjiang, the westernmost province of modern China.

For thousands of years the occupants of what would later become the Silk Road buried their dead in the sands of the Täklimakan desert. This arid environment, preserving body and clothing, allows an unparalleled glimpse into the lives and appearance of the prehistoric peoples who settled in the Tarim Basin on the western rim of ancient China some four thousand years ago.

This intriguing study describes the discovery of these ancient peoples and reveals the latest attempts to explain their origins and determine their ethnic identity. It examines the clues left by physical remains; their economy, technology and textiles (some of the mummies even wore tartan); and the later traces of the languages of the Tarim region.

J. P. Mallory, Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology at Queen’s University, Belfast, is the author of In Search of the Indo-Europeans, also published by Thames & Hudson. Victor H. Mair, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, is the editor of The Prehistory of the Silk Road by E. E. Kuzmina.