China unearths millennia-old Silk Road mummy, still in "good shape"

XINING (Xinhua) - The mummified remains of a middle-aged man, believed to have walked the earth about 1,700 years ago, has been unearthed on a less frequented section of the ancient Silk Road on the edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

The body was found at a construction site in the northwestern town of Mang'ai in Qinghai Province. It is being cared for by Haixi Prefectural Museum of Ethnology.

"It is in good shape, perhaps the oldest and the best preserved mummy discovered on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau," said Xin Feng, director of the museum.

The body measures 1.62 meters, and features perfectly preserved skin and hair remnants. The man was believed to be in his 40s when he died. His face looks calm and hands are crossed above the abdomen.

Archaeologists will use DNA tests to find out the man's ethnicity and identity, said Xin Feng. The mummy was found amid dried reeds, dyed cloth mats, a horse's hoof, and sheep bones - thought to be funeral objects for the upper class of the time.

Mummies are usually formed in in very dry environments which prevent bodies from decay. The area where the body was found is on the northern edge of the plateau close to Taklamakan Desert.

It was on a less traveled off-shoot route of the ancient Silk Road. Traders took this route to avoid conflict on the Hexi Corridor, a much better known thoroughfare.

Mummified bodies have been found along the ancient Silk Road inside China as it crosses a wide stretch of arid land in present-day's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Some were Caucasian, a testimony to the ancient Silk Road's heyday as a global trade route.