Small River Cemetery No. 5

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There's a 4,000-year-old cemetery in the desert north of Tibet known as Small River Cemetery No. 5. In it, more than 200 mummies rest underneath a "vigorous forest of phallic symbols," and the corpses show signs of European and Siberian origin. So how did they end up in China? The New York Times gives us some clues in a new story: A Host of Mummies, a Forest of Secrets. But what really jumps out at me is all this talk of phalluses and proto-lingerie. Here's a snippet:

The cemetery lies in what is now China's northwest autonomous region of Xinjiang, yet the people have European features, with brown hair and long noses. Their remains, though lying in one of the world's largest deserts, are buried in upside-down boats. And where tombstones might stand, declaring pious hope for some god's mercy in the afterlife, their cemetery sports instead a vigorous forest of phallic symbols, signaling an intense interest in the pleasures or utility of procreation.

...As the Chinese archaeologists dug through the five layers of burials, Dr. Mair recounted, they came across almost 200 poles, each 13 feet tall. Many had flat blades, painted black and red, like the oars from some great galley that had foundered beneath the waves of sand.

At the foot of each pole there were indeed boats, laid upside down and covered with cowhide. The bodies inside the boats were still wearing the clothes they had been buried in. They had felt caps with feathers tucked in the brim, uncannily resembling Tyrolean mountain hats. They wore large woolen capes with tassels and leather boots. A Bronze Age salesclerk from Victoria's Secret seems to have supplied the clothes beneath — barely adequate woolen loin cloths for the men, and skirts made of string strands for the women.

I'd say these are some sexy mummies. Read the rest for a story of some very ancient, and very sex-obsessed, dead people.

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March 17, 2010 - 11:06am
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