Silk Road Artifacts

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Gold Ring

Gold ring, ca 2nd–4th century A.D.
Gold ring, ca 2nd–4th century A.D. Excavated from Jarintay, Nilqa County, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. © Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology

Artifacts of the "Secrets of the Silk Road" Exhibit From China

The Penn Museum (from February 5-June 5, 2011) is the last U.S. stop for "Secrets of the Silk Road," a traveling Chinese interactive exhibit of artifacts from the silk road. Central to the exhibit is an almost 4000-year-old mummy, "Beauty of Xiaohe" who was found in Central Asia's Tarim Basin desert, in 2003. The exhibit was organized by the Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, California, in association with the Archaeological Institute of Xinjiang and the Urumqi Museum. Other stops in the U.S. have included the Bowers Museum (March 27 to July 25, 2010) and the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences (August 28, 2010 to January 2, 2011).

According to the University of Pennsylvania press release on the exhibit, Victor Mair (Penn Museum consulting scholar and professor of Chinese Language and Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, and "Secrets of the Silk Road" catalog editor/curatorial consultant), "This traveling exhibition of materials from half-way around the world is opening new doors—providing visitors with an unparalleled opportunity to come face to face, literally, with life in East Central Asia, both before and after the formation of the fabled Silk Routes that began more than 2,000 years ago...."

In this photo gallery about the exhibit, you can see captioned highlights, including two mummies, and metal, wooden, bone, and textile artifacts.

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"The Beauty of Xiaohe"

"The Beauty of Xiaohe," female mummy, ca 1800—1500 B.C. Excavated from Xiaohe (Little River) Cemetery 5, Charqilik (Ruoqiang) County, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. © Wang Da-Gang

People viewing this mummy say it is amazingly detailed, with visible eyelashes and surprisingly western features for a mummy found in China. They say she looks as though she is taking a nap. A US Today article shows her wearing the odd white felt hat with the red cords and tall top-feather.

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Side view of infant mummy, c. 8th century B.C.

Side view of infant mummy, ca 8th century B.C.
Side view of infant mummy, ca 8th century B.C. Excavated from Zaghunluq, Chärchän, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. © Wang Da-Gang. © Wang Da-Gang
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Green brocade with bird, goat, and tree designs

Green brocade with bird, goat, and tree designs, ca 7th–9th century A.D.
Green brocade with bird, goat, and tree designs, ca 7th–9th century A.D. Excavated from Tomb No. 151, Astana, Turfan, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. © Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Museum
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Plum Blossom Dessert made from flour dough

Plum-Blossom-Dessert made from flour dough, pressed into shape and baked, ca 7th–9th century A.D.
Made from flour dough, pressed into shape and baked, ca 7th–9th century A.D. Excavated from Astana, Turfan, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. © Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Museum
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Bronze figurine of a kneeling warrior

Bronze figurine of a kneeling warrior, ca 500 B.C.
Bronze figurine of a kneeling warrior, ca 500 B.C. Excavated from south bank of the Künäs River, Xinyuan (Künäs) County. © Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Museum
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Pullover skirted dress

Pullover skirted dress, ca. 5th—3rd century B.C.
Pullover skirted dress, ca. 5th—3rd century B.C. Excavated from Tomb No. 55 of Cemetery No. 1, Zaghunluq, Chärchän, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. © Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Museum
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Saddle blanket with leaves pattern

Saddle blanket with leaves pattern, ca 2nd century BC–AD 2nd century
Saddle blanket with leaves pattern, ca 2nd century BC–AD 2nd century. Excavated from Tomb No. 2, Horse Pit, Sampul, Lop, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. © Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Museum
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Wooden coffin, c. 3rd—4th C. A.D.

Wooden coffin, ca 3rd—4th century A.D.
Wooden coffin, ca 3rd—4th century A.D. Excavated from a tomb northeast of site LE at Ancient Loulan City, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. © Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology
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Wall hanging with warrior and centaur design

Wall hanging with warrior and centaur design, c. 2nd C. B.C. — A.D. 2nd C.
Wall hanging with warrior and centaur design, ca 2nd century BC—2nd century AD. Excavated from Sampul, Lop, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. © Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Museum
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"Yingpan Man," front view of clothed body of male mummy

“Yingpan Man,” front view of clothed body of male mummy, ca 3rd–4th century A.D.
“Yingpan Man,” front view of clothed body of male mummy, ca 3rd–4th century A.D. Complete trappings, but not mummy, are on display in “Secrets of the Silk Road.” Excavated from Yingpan, Yuli (Lopnur) County, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. © Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology
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"The Beauty of Xiaohe" in poplar "boat" coffin

“The Beauty of Xiaohe,” shown in poplar “boat” coffin, ca 1800—1500 B.C.
“The Beauty of Xiaohe,” shown in poplar “boat” coffin, ca 1800—1500 B.C. Excavated from Xiaohe (Little River) Cemetery 5, Charqilik (Ruoqiang) County, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. © Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology
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Embroidered Boots

Embroidered boots with gradated colors, ca 2nd–3rd century A.D.
Embroidered boots with gradated colors, ca 2nd–3rd century A.D. Excavated from Tomb No. 5 of Cemetery No. 1, Niya, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. © Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Museum
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Bronze Eyeshades made from a piece of hammered bronze

Bronze Eyeshade Made from a piece of hammered bronze, ca 7th–9th century A.D.
Made from a piece of hammered bronze, ca 7th–9th century A.D. Excavated from Tomb No. 227, Astana, Turfan, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. © Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Museum

You may have heard that although sunglasses are a kohl lines under the eyes serve to protect from the intense glare of the sun and that such protection has been used since the days of the ancient Egyptians. This piece of punctured bronze is an eyeshade and would certainly cut down on the amount of light/glare let into the eye. With all the holes around the perimeter, it would appear easy enough to attach something to hold it in place while sitting on horseback. The string adorning the white felt hat in the next picture -- seemingly an ideal location from which to tie on eyewear -- would seem too weak to hold on a piece of heavy bronze.

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White felt hat

White felt hat, ca 1800–1500 B.C.
White felt hat, ca 1800–1500 B.C. Excavated from Xiaohe (Little River) Cemetery 5, Charqilik (Ruoqiang) County, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. © Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology
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Painted clay figure of an equestrienne

Painted clay figure of an equestrienne, ca 7th–9th century A.D.
Painted clay figure of an equestrienne, ca 7th–9th century A.D. Excavated from Tomb No.187, Astana Turfan, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. © Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Museum
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Gold Plaque with tiger design

Gold Plaque with tiger design, 5th–3rd Century B.C.
Gold Plaque with tiger design, 5th–3rd Century B.C. Excavated from Tomb No. 30, Alagou (Alwighul, Alghuy) Toksun, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. © Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Museum
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Gold plaque with lion

Gold plaque with lion
Gold plaque with lion, ca. 5th—3rd century BC. Excavated from Tomb No. 30, at Alagou (Alwighul, Alghuy), Toksun, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. © Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Museum