Cherchen Mummies
Biographical Information
Name(s) Cherchen mummies, Tarim Basin mummies, Taklamakan mummies
Age varied
Sex female
Status n/a
Culture Tocharian
Date(s) 3,000 ya
Site Cherchen Basin
Current Location
Location China
Catalog #

The Cherchen Mummies, three women and a baby, were found with the 50 year old male known as Cherchen Man. They were found in the Taklamakan desert in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang in whose language the word "Taklamakan" means "you go in and never come out". The mummies are currently housed in a new museum in the provincial capital of Urumqi.

Artist reconstruction of the Cherchen Woman

The woman wears a red dress and white deerskin boots. She lies with her knees raised and her head propped up. Her light-brown hair is gathered in two long plaits, and she is about 6 feet tall. The baby girl was about 3 months old, wrapped in maroon wool, wearing a bonnet of bright-blue felt with red wool trimming. Next to the baby lies a nursing bottle made from a sheep's udder. Blue stones cover the child's eyes.

Picture by Professor Victor H Mair

The other two women are more poorly preserved.

It has been speculated that the mummies represent a family group, although there is no proof.


Preservation is a result of natural mummification due to arid conditions. They were buried in a tomb made of mud bricks topped with reeds and brush. The desert's dry conditions as well as its salty soil provided a suitable climate for mummification. Extremely cold temperatures would have killed any bacteria that contributed to the decay.


When found, one mummy's mouth was open, called a mummy gape. Like the Cherchen Man, she has multiple markings on her face, and red yarn through her ear lobes. She was six foot tall, has braided hair.

Another women sharing Cherchen Man's tomb had light brown hair. Her face is painted with curling designs.

The mummies that were found are on display at the Museum in Urumchi.

External Links

China Mummies - Crystalinks. (n.d.). Retrieved March 19, 2017, from


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