The Cherchen man is an ancient Chinese mummy discovered in 1978, in the Tarim Basin, Taklamakan Desert in modern-day Xinjiang, China. He is the most famous of the Chinese mummies due to his impeccable preservation over the 1000s of years in which he was buried. The Cherchen man was found in a tomb beneath the desert sands of the Taklamakan Desert, along with three women and a 𝑏𝑎𝑏𝑦. The discovery of the Cherchen man, along with the Beauty of Loulan, shocked historians and archaeologists worldwide as it was clear that the Cherchen man, along with the others found in his tomb, were Caucasian and supposedly migrated to China from Eastern Europe. But what were Ancient Europeans doing in China? This discovery along with others in the Taklamakan Desert shifted the views and opinions of historians and archaeologists about the ancient world and their interaction and movement with different continents.
Cherchen Man’s face- Tattoos and symbols evident
Physical/Visual Examination revealed many astonishing facts about the Cherchen Man including ones that supported the theory of Cherchen man having European roots. Cherchen man was six feet tall, quiet tall for the Asian region. Examination of Cherchen man’s head revealed that his hair was brown/ginger and was plaited, he also had a rough-looking beard. Further visual analysis revealed that Cherchen man had strange tattoos/symbols on his body. These observations strongly influenced historian’s beliefs that Cherchen man was a European; Ginger hair was highly common in Europe during ancient times whilst highly uncommon in Asia. The decorative tattoos and symbols found on his body revealed the likelihood of ancient beliefs and religions during Cherchen man’s time and suggest a Nordic/European influence that reinforces the belief of an Indo-European society in Asia before recorded history. When Cherchen man was buried he wore a twill tunic and tartan leggings, which are the oldest surviving ‘pants’ in the world. When textile expert Elizabeth Wayland Barber examined the fabrics she compared the similarities of the fabric to Central European culture.
Cherchen Man- Notice his well preserved outfit providing an insight into the past
Scientific analysis of the Cherchen man further expanded upon the mystery of the Chinese mummies. DNA marker testing revealed that the Cherchen man, along with the others found in his tomb, had European and Asian genes. The cause of Cherchen man’s death is yet to be discovered as new developments of scientific technology are yet to happen. Chinese culture expert Victor Mair, from the University of Pennsylvania, was the first Westerner, along with his team, to see the Chinese mummies, including the Cherchen man and concluded that these “ancient people were from ancient Europe but migrated to Asia”. His conclusions, as well as other evidence, continues to be debated as many believe that these mummies are living proof that the East and the West were linked together through migration before the famous Silk Road was built. These migration patterns shaped the world and China as we know it.
Artist’s impression of Cherchen man- emphasizing his mysterious tattoo