Xiaohe is a beauty; she has long eyelashes, a button nose, auburn hair that falls across her shoulders and has been dead for 3,800 years.
The mummy, known as The Beauty of Xiaohe, was discovered by a Swedish archeologist in 1934 in China’s Tarim Basin, in the western province of Xinjiang, a remote arid land once off limits for outsiders. “Now they’re pulling mummies out of the ground like it’s an Abbott and Costello movie,”. But the mummy has led to controversy, part of an exhibit touring the US called “Secrets of the Silk Road”, her travels were halted last February by the Chinese government.
Chinese officials said the mummy had been away for too long and needed to return home to China, but some scholars speculate the real reason she was pulled from the show was because of her looks. Xiaohe’s Caucasian features suggest Europeans had actually been living within China at a time thousands of years earlier than was previously thought, debunking Chinese narratives of how the history of their own country developed. The existence of a mummy like Xiaohe, says Spencer Wells, a geneticist and anthropologist is “as though a group of Celts or Vikings had been mysteriously transported into the middle of a Chinese desert.”