“Copied by the London Photographic Compy., 1B Norfolk Terrace, Bayswater W., and 304 Regent Street W.”
This is a mass-produced sentimental image. The woman, dressed in widow’s mourning, laments at a real grave—however, it is too old a grave to be any of any freshly lost relative of her own. Thanks to modern technology the inscription can be read as “In affectionate remembrance of Frederick William Paige…who departed this life September 11, 1814, age 35.”
Bronze Eyeshade, 7th-9th century, Excavated from Tomb No. 227, Astana, Turpan, © Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Museum Collection.
This eyeshade was hammered from a piece of bronze placed over a mold. It was found covering the eyes of the tomb’s occupant. The border of the eyeshade has been punched with small holes that would have been decorated with textiles.
Eyeshades like these were worn for the same reasons we wear sunglasses today, to keep out sun, wind, and sand drifts. However in the Tufpan region during the Tang dynasty, eyeshades were not used for this purpose. They were funerary items used for covering the eyes of the tomb’s occupant. In the Astana tombs of this time it was customary to cover the face with a piece of cloth. The area where the eyes should be was cut from the face cover and then an eyeshade like this one was sewn to the fabric.
This is Yingpan Man. Or, more specifically: These are the clothes he was buried in. He’s another of the Tarim Basin mummies, though he’s much younger, historically speaking, than Cherchen Man. He lived sometime in the fourth or fifth centuries A.D.
Heather Pringle’s post from a few years back on Archaeology’s blog offers some background on the mummy and his clothes, which were featured in the recent traveling exhibit Secrets of the Silk Road. She consults Sinologist (and Tarim Basin mummy expert) Victor Mair.
The magnificent trappings of Yingpan Man are the first things that visitors lay eyes on in the exhibit. The Chinese government did not send the remains of the European-looking 6-footer who wore his brown hair in a topknot. But as Mair pointed out, Yingpan Man’s “sartorial shell” alone speaks volumes. Dating to the 4th or early 5th century AD, the attire of this ancient traveler clearly embodies all the wealth and splendor that flowed through the Tarim Basin after the Silk Road opened and linked China to the Mediterranean world. […]
Who was Yingpan Man? Mair has some ideas. He died in his early to mid-thirties, and he had clearly amassed a fortune by that point, most likely through trade. The town of Yingpan, after all, was an crucial trade node on the Silk Road. During this period, Mair pointed out, the richest traders along the route were Sogdians, an Iranian-speaking people whose homeland lay near Samarkand in what is now Uzbekistan. So Mair believes that Yingpan man was likely a Sogdian merchant who died relatively young in a place far from home.
The fact that I’m just seeing clothes here—and no mummy—kind of creeps me out a little. The same way this did.
“Yingpan Man,” front view of clothed body of male mummy, ca 3rd-4th century AD. Excavated from Yingpan, Yuli (Lopnur) County, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China, © Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology.
Another garbed skeleton from Waldsassen Basilica. Source: Morbid Anatomy.
These are two of the sharp-dressed skeletons at Waldsassen Basilica in Bavaria. Here is about all that’s really known about these guys, from Atlas Obscura:
Known as the “Holy Bodies,” they are the skeletons of Christian martyrs who were exhumed from the catacombs of Rome between 1688 and 1765. What makes these even more unusual than standard skeletal relics is that these skeletons are dressed in elaborate 1700s garb, covered in jewels, and generally look like royalty. Each year, the church celebrates a Holy-Bodies-Fest celebrating these martyrs, with the idea that we too are “Holy Bodies.”
(I’m not a textile expert, but these outfits look to predate the 1700s by a century or two, but I could be wrong.)
In addition to the article linked above, Atlas Obscura has a first-hand account of a visit to the Basilica, with more pictures!
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