Saturday, December 1, 2007

National Geographic's "Explorer: China’s Secret Mummies" attempts to unravel a mystery that could rewrite history

There are probably only a handful of finds of this nature in every century. It really is extraordinary given the context of where they’re found and given what we thought we knew about the history of that region. The question is, how did they end up in this East Asian realm?” — Dr. Spencer Wells

More than a thousand years before any known contact between East and West, hundreds of mummies, many with blue eyes and light hair, were buried in a Chinese desert.

It’s a discovery that could substantially rewrite the history of contact between East and West and challenge the assumption that China developed largely in isolation.

On Sunday, December 2, at 9 p.m. ET/PT, the National Geographic Channel’s Explorer: China’s Secret Mummies goes on a unique forensic journey to determine who these people were and where they came from.

The Tarim Basin in western China is an arid, forbidding landscape long thought to be one of the natural barriers that enabled the East to develop separately from the West.

But a remarkable archaeological find by a Chinese expedition in 1978 — a series of mummies, many with Caucasian features — called into question theories about East/West migration.
The mummies remained in a regional museum, all but hidden for a decade, until Victor Mair, an expert on ancient Chinese texts, chanced upon them and realized their importance.

Examining their clothes and the artifacts buried near them provided some clues about their origin. It wasn’t until earlier this year that Spencer Wells, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and director of National Geographic’s Genographic Project, went on a mission to use advanced DNA-analyzing technology to decode the mummies’ genetic identities.

Full Article Here: