The enigmatic mummies were buried in boats in a desert region of Northwest China and were discovered mostly in the 1990s. The mummies were found in the Tarim Basin in Xinjiang and have puzzled archaeologists. Despite being 4,000 years old, their bodies and clothes were shockingly intact. The mummies were naturally preserved by the dry desert air so their facial features and hair colour can clearly be seen.
They looked of Western descent carrying felted and woven wool clothing, and cheese, wheat, and millet. Those items found in their unusual graves hinted the group were herders from the West Asia steppe or migrating farmers from the mountain and desert of central Asia. However, Chinese, European and American researchers finally analyzed the 13 mummies and sequenced their genomes for the first time.
Their analysis suggested the remains belonged to a local group descended from an ancient Ice Age Asian population. Christina Warinner, an associate professor of anthropology at Harvard University said “The mummies have long fascinated scientists and the public alike since their original discovery. Beyond being extraordinarily preserved, they were found in a highly unusual context, and they exhibit diverse and far-flung cultural elements.”
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