While the post prompting article has a bad pun about 'Chinese perservation leaves eygptians for dead' this is a shameful half truth.
Yes, she is preserved. No fooling...but was there a real active technique? No.
The Han burial practices do not support that inthe slightest.
I still havent got round to posting those pics of the food on plates and baskets, as I am working on several other threads...but think about it. The fruit and the cuts of meat didnt drink her magic Chinese medicine (which includes some of the more mundane ingredients I listed above).
The preservation is entirely due to the local conditions of her tomb and those that buried her were unaware she would be preserved differently to the son and husband beside her (who rotted normally).
The contents of the tomb, the silk and laquerware were preserved too. They weren't mummified in any preservation technique either.
Thanks for the tidbits of info, and the argument over semantics....but it is clear she is a preserved corpse and yet shouldnt be inadequetely compared to Eygptian techniques at all (nor should the Eygptians be belittled).
She is more comparible to bodies recovered from European peat swamps who were left as sacrifice, and the propertys of the peat swamp preserved them accidently. No, they arent called mummies either in literature. Some of them are also older (many centuries BC) than this lady.
You attempt to split hairs over dictionary definitions is unnessecary however, as there are natural mummies and prepared mummies. That is clear and undeniable. Both the Xianjiang, or for instance the Peruvian mummies you refer to, fit the later criteria as the people were aware of this process and exploited it.
Yes, mummies can be accidental too, freeze dried or dehydrated, but my objection is ONLY to the confused articles reasoning behind claiming the Han developed superior preservation techniques.
For the most part the Han era idea of preserving the body was thought be be by using jade, but the main fixation was on providing tomb objects (servants & luxuries) for the deceased to enjoy in the afterlife. The afterlife was viewed as a mirror image of the material world, and so the rich wanted to 'take it with them'. Thsi is what makes tombs from the period a tremendous record of the material culture (particularily due to ceramic images taken from life, houses, farms, animals, warriors, servants, musicians etc.) These objects were also placed inLady Dais tomb...they were wooden, and survived due to the unusual tomb atmposhere.
Here are some plain facts for you;
.....shortly after the date at which Lady Dai was buried the Han Chinese switched from these 'shaft' burials to a more complex 'chamber' burial, so her own method of tomb was shortly discontinued. Such a find is very very rare understandably, even from the over one thousand years of shaft burials preceding it.
There wasnt any successful way to preserve bodies during Han, although erroneously Jade was thought to prevent body corruption and also trap the 'breath of life' that may have still remained in the corpse. Even since West ZHou there were funerary masks of jade (of which images from Han jades are easiest to find), and during Han there were burial pigs/crouching pigs of jade, as well as body apperture plugs and jade cicadas etc.
All of these were funerary items, and ineffective due to flawed Daoist logic.
i.e Both the pills given to QIn SHi Huang, and testing of those 'immortality pills' recovered from the King of Nanyues tomb (who had rotted to dust when opened) shows the ingredients had the opposite effect and may well have caused their deaths
The height of this erroneous jade=incorruptability logic resultied in striking Han jade burial suits, which were reserved for Emperors, but the defiant King of Nanyue in Guangzhou was buried in one too. These are often shown in history texts on the period also.
Han ideas of preservation were thoroughly flawed...and any such finds as above are a lucky fluke, just as are discoveries of intact wood objects in tombs that have been flooded below the water table (like pictured above).
Local conditions only. A fluke. I am not saying she isnt preserved, but that there was no 'advanced technique' as was the premise of the article.
I hope this is now clear enough.
If any of the above about the construction of Han era tombs based on excavation, or the idea of Jades properties, or the finding of Han funerary objects to preserve the corpse needs referencing back to texts then I can supply them.....but a simple google search should also confirm some of the above concepts of burial during Han as it is commonly reffered to.
To quote the song; 'Dont believe the hype'. Preserved, Yes.....advanced preservation technique? No.
Like a can of tinned food, once the tomb is opened she begins to rot. The element of competition between nationalties and which 'mummies' are best is just a spin by some journalist.
I have seen many references to this tomb find before for studies of the ancient dynasties, and they simply value it as a wonderful time capsule. ANy point scoring between civilsations is a sad digression, and also a pretty flawed one based on what I have just listed above...all common knowledge to any researcher of the Han material culture.
PS; as far as real mummies, and the peat corpses go this is neither the best nor the oldest preserved corpse in the world either.
Edited by Kenneth, 29 June 2005 - 08:03 PM.