November 6, 2014

At Home in Her Tomb: Lady Dai and the Ancient Chinese Treasure of Mawangdui by Christine Liu-Perkins

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:13 am by suebe2

At Home in Her Tomb:
Lady Dai and the Ancient Chinese Treasure of Mawangdui
by Christine Liu-Perkins

The mummy of this Chinese noble woman is an unusual sight.  Well preserved like the very best mummies, the isn’t the least bit dried out.  All of her soft tissue, including her internal organs, were preserved in a pliable state.  Scientists don’t know why or how this type of preservation took place although they have found several more of these lifelike Chinese mummies.

In the 1970s, workers uncovered a tomb covered in a layer of white clay over one of charcoal.  When they broke the seal, methane gas escaped and they knew they had something special.  This tomb had remained sealed and from the construction and artifacts they knew it was from the Han Dynasty (206 BCE to 220 CE).

Eventually they discovered a series of three tombs.  The central tomb, the first discovered, was the best preserved.  They weren’t sure who the nobel woman was until they explored the tomb of the older man.  A series of seals inside his tomb revealed that he was the Marquis of Dai, Li Cang, a high ranking Han official.  The woman was his wife, Lady Dai.  The third tomb belonged to one of their sons who, based on the artifacts, had probably been a Han General.

Between the three tombs, archaeologists found a wealth of material unknown to modern scientists and scholars.  In addition to the mummy, other early surprised included food preserved as perfectly as Lady Dai.

In the son’s tombs they found a map and a series of books writte on bamboo strips.  Scholars knew that some of these books existed, because other ancient writers talked about them, but the books themselves had been lost — burned by critical emperors or simply rotted away.  These were the first copies seen in over a 1000 years.  Games, ancient musical instruments and more emerged from the tombs.

Every excavation is like a mystery as archaeologists work to piece together the story of what had happened.  This particular excavation revealed not only the lives of these three people but also the time in which they lived.

Although heavily illustrated, this book isn’t a picture book.  Add it to your shelf if you have a young reader who is interested in China, history or the science of archaeology. Author Christine Liu-Perkins gives a strong introduction to the Han Dynasty and also explains how this find expanded on what is known about this vital period of Chinese history.

–SueBE

 

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