Lady Dai: China's Eternal Mummy

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The World's Best Preserved Mummy

Lady Dai mummy
The mummy of Xin Zhui, Hunan Museum
Changsha China

Xin Zhui, the wife of the ruler of the Han imperial fiefdom of Dai was buried in a tomb near the modern city of Changsha. Her location has prompted some to call her Lady Dai.

Beautiful exquisitely preserved lacquerware, fine food and fabrics and other artifacts were found in the 2100 year old tomb with her mummified body in 1971. It was the mummy that startled and confounded archeologists. Unlike even the best preserved Egyptian mummies, her skin was supple, her limbs could be manipulated, her hair was still intact, and incredibly, there was red blood in her veins. All her internal organs were intact.

Her body revealed almost as much information as an autopsy of a recently deceased corpse. They found many parasites inside her, such as tapeworms. This is not in itself unusual and did not cause her death. She had over 100 fresh melon seeds in her stomach, indicating she had a heavy meal shortly before her death. She was obese and afflicted with gallstones, one of which was stuck in the opining to her bile duct. They found clogged arteries, astonishing cardiologists, who had thought this was only a modern problem. The acute pain of the clogged bile duct may have precipitated a heart attack.

It is still unknown why her corpse was so well preserved. There have been two other similarly well preserved mummies found nearby from around the same time. The methods of mummification, a mysterious fluid used in the process, along with a tomb perfectly crafted underground sealed from the forces of decay are all part of the puzzle.