The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West Hardcover – Jun 29 2000
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A major contribution to the history and archaeology of a remote and little known part of the world. -- Brian Fagan
Facinating and well-researched...certain to prove controversal. -- Colin Renfrew
This book is of outstanding significance . . . essential reading for archaeologists and scholars of ancient history. -- Social and Behavioral Sciences, C. C. Lamberg-Karlovsky, January 2001
About the Author
J.P. Mallory, Professor of Archaeology at the Queen's University, Belfast, is the author of In Search of the Indo-Europeans, published by Thames and Hudson. Victor H. Mair is Professor of Chinese at the University of Pennsylvania and has been instrumental in bringing the Tarim mummies to the notice of Western scholars.
Top Customer Reviews
It seemed to me that the book might better have concentrated on what could be learned of their culture from what we DO know from their burials and with comparisons to how people live in those regions today. There is no in-depth analysis of the items (beyond what you can see for yourself in the photographs) nor comparison of cultural details or even explaining what a nomadic lifestyle would be like, nor discussion of specific practices that might suggest their beliefs. And when mention is made it is done briefly so they can get on with their analysis of the historical basis of Central Asia. Clearly they chose their emphasis simply because they have such limited access to the mummies themselves.
There are several chapters at the end that spell out all the competing ideas of how the Tarim basin may have been populated, which probably belonged in a anthropological journal. But I cannot say the book is not interesting to reade, its just that I kept waiting for a close study of cultural comparisons right until the book ended. For this reason I liked Barber's book better, for her close appraisal of Tarim fabrics and then to speak of how they might have been made. One feature of the mummies was the women with "witch" hats. The authors simply say the real witch's hat was Puritan dress from the 17th century and then blithely go on. Now somehow I believed the Puritans were Christians not pagans, but maybe I'm wrong.
This volume explores the mystery of the caucasoid mummies found in the heart of central Asia along the ancient silk route. It is written by two eminent scholars actively involved in research on the mummies, so readers can be forgiven for assuming the authors' qualifications would result in an exceptional book. Not so. Sadly, this book suffers from the curse of an overly academic approach. It's a real shame, too, considering the unusual nature of the mummies, their fantastic state of preservation, and the detective work required to reconstruct their story from a relatively few tantalizing clues.
Readers interested in this subject will be pleased with the color photos included, and I don't mean to suggest that this book is not worth reading--far from it--however, the writing is unremittingly turgid, the conclusions predictably cautious and wishy-washy, and when all is said and done it is sadly unsatisfying.
extent to which at least some of the later Xinjiang mummies may have
been Northeast Iranians (Saka, et al.), who subsequently had an impact
on both China and Japan-I can attest that Mair and Mallory have
critically assessed every possible explanation before concluding that
the great bulk of this Europoid population, esepcially in the later
period, were in all probability Tocharian speakers of one sort or
another (the earliest Europoids in the region may have been archaic
Iranians, an idea recently suggested by my colleague Dr. Elizabeth
J. W. Barber). Moreover, the textile evidence, intensely researched
by Dr. Barber (see her widely-praised book THE MUMMIES OF URUMCHI,
W.W. Norton & Co., 1999), reinforces the conclusion that the
Europoids who settled in the Tarim Basin in the latter part 2nd
millennium, B.C.E., shared a common origin with a variety of Western
Indo-European speakers, including the Celts, whose textiles were
preserved in the salt-filled graves at Hallstatt (ca. 1300-400
B.C.E.). This, of course, also points squarely in the direction of the
Tocharians, who, despite the fact that they were the easternmost of
the attested ancient Indo-European speakers, shared a great many
specific linguistic features in common with the Western group,
especially the Celts. (Incidently,...the pointed "witches
hat" is in fact deeply embedded in the ancient Brythonic-and,
by extension, Celtic-culture and predates the 17th century Puritan
image...by at least two millennia.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
read Elizabeth Wayland Barber's "Mummies of Urumchi" instead. It's a great read. She foucses on what we can learn about these people based on (starting from) the textiles the... Read morePublished on Nov. 4 2002 by rkb
This thick volume attempts to answer the question of how a bunch of Caucasian mummies ended up in central China. Read morePublished on June 12 2002 by The Strife of Love in a Dream
"The Tarim Mummies" weaves field data, historical background, scholarship, and informed speculation into probably the best account of this subject yet published. Read morePublished on Sept. 19 2000 by JLP
Mair and Mallory did an excellent job. They not only cover the mummies and the archaeological finds, they also provide lots of historical background and context, which is... Read morePublished on Aug. 7 2000 by Jonathan Hendry