Mummies, for a limited time only

I never had the mummy bug as a kid. I remember there were a couple of sad old mummies in the only real history museum near where I grew up, and I remember my class mates (mostly the boys) in raptures when we visited the darkened room where they were on display. But mummies held no particular horror or fascination, except for the mild horror and fascination about our desperate craving for some kind of physical immortality.

But the Beauty of Xiaohe is rather fetching. She’s on display for a short time at the University of Pennsylvania’s wonderful archaeology and anthropology museum, part of an exhibition with the boring and rather silly title Secrets of the Silk Road. There was a brief contretemps with the Chinese government about her display, which I cover in an extended review of the exhibition. But, frankly, it’s not the mummies who are the star of this show. The excitement here is the rest of the material, a rich trove of artifacts from the western deserts of China. It’s well worth a visit.



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