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The so called "Cherchen man" is probably the best preserved Central Asian mummy. 1000 BC, found at Zaghunluq, Xinjiang Museum, Urumqi, China.
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by Archaeology Newsroom

The Secret Life Of A Gobi Desert Shaman

A stash of still-green marijuana alongside a group of objects found alongside an exceptionally well preserved Iron Age mummy at the Yanghai Tombs near Turpan, (Xinjiang Autonomous Region, China), can shed light to the lifestyle of the person but also his long lost “tribe”, researchers suggest.

The mummy found within the so-called Room 90 of Group 1, one of the three clusters the tombs were found in Yanghai, belongs to a man of about 45 years old. Like the more well known Cherchen man, this mummy has a  clearly visible face of a Caucasoid,with blue eyes.

Who was the man? And what a European-looking tribe was doing along the pathway that was to identify with the Silk Road several centuries following his death?

It is a fact that the man is one of the many examples of Caucasians, members of nomad tribes found buried in several cemeteries along the extended Central Asian area known as Tarim Basin.  Luckily, the man had been buried with a group of artefacts, characterised as rare and high-value: a make-up bag, bridles, pots, archery equipment and a kongou harp. Still, the most intereesting find remained a stash of marijuana -apparently indigenous in Central Asia, lightly pounded in a wooden bowl in a leather basket! So, the man apparently belonged to a highly estimated social group which engaged in music but also in drug-taking, probably in the framework of cultic or healing practices.

According to the above, researchers identify the man as a shaman. They also suggest he was a member of the Gushi people, who spoke a now-extinct language called Tocharian that was similar to Celtic. His people -actually one of several Indo-European speaking tribes- were living in the Gobi Desert for centuries as nomads and pastoralists: dates on the Yanghai Tombs, where hundreds of mummies were found overall, range between ca. 3000 and 2600 years ago.