The Mummies of Urumchi

Posted by on Sunday, September 10th, 2006

The Mummies of Urumchi by Elizabeth Wayland Barber.

If you’re an efficient-minded person, don’t bother to read this review.  Just go buy the book and read  it immediately.  I’d recommend you just get all of Barber’s books.  She is a rare talent–an amazing scholar who puts her learning to great practical use who can also write engaging, lovely prose.

Just get all of her books while you’re at the store.  It’ll save you valuable time that could be spent pouring over Barber’s writing.

This particular book explains the discovery of and research on some ancient mummified caucasoid bodies discovered in the Tarim Basin, which is north of Tibet and south of Mongolia.  Barber, both a brilliant linguist and a fiber artist who has studied ancient techniques, was invited to the region, which is now part of China, to study the bodies and their clothing.   Many archaeologists and linguists agree that the mummified folks were Tocharian speakers, thus Indo-Europeans.  They seem to have been permanently settled in the area. 

What is most interesting to most of us fiber heads is the clothing these people made.  Even after about 3,000 years of burial, their clothes are bright red and yellow and blue.  They wear twill plaids, woven in a structure that is otherwise particular to Celtic tribes in Europe in the Iron Age.  They painted swirling designs on their faces, much like Celts did during their battles with Rome, much later.

Just read the book.  I’m too excited to keep writing about it, because thinking of it makes me pick the book right back up.  So just read the book.  And stare at the gorgeous photos.  And then learn to weave and dye–you’ll be forced to, I tell ya. 

Filed in Books | 3 responses so far

3 Responses to “The Mummies of Urumchi”

  1. Cassieon 13 Sep 2006 at 10:14 am 1

    Amen (to the last bit). I can actually blame that book for being one of the things that pushed me over the edge.

  2. k sallyjoon 13 Sep 2006 at 10:10 pm 2

    I loved that book. Thank goodness I already knew how to weave. Not so much “When They Severed Earth From Sky”, because I like my myths too much. I did like how they handled cow mutilations though. (I’ll admit it. I didn’t finish it.)

  3. Annieon 19 Sep 2006 at 11:19 pm 3

    Rushing off to Amazon…

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