May 6, 2008

Lady Dai

The art of body preservation is in most minds mastered by ancient Egyptians. The ancient Egyptians believed in life after death, that life simple continued on as they knew it. So if life continues on, then your body must survive to make the trip. Ancient Egyptian morticians were excellent at their trade. They preserved bodies that are on display thousands of years after they placed the last strip of linen around the body.

However, the Egyptians might need to pass the blue ribbon in body preservation to the ancient Chinese. In 1971 archaeologists came across a tomb and a preserved corpse. The body was in such good shape that a modern autopsy was preformed. The organs were found in tact including the brain. The limbs were flexible and blood was still found in the veins.

The body belonged to a woman name Xin Zhui, the Lady of Dai. She died, between 178 and 145BC and was a woman of wealth and privileged. She was married to the marquis of Han, and lived during the dynasty of Han.

Her tomb was full of treasures literally reflecting her tastes. It was apparent she loved to eat since her tomb included artifacts related to food including bamboo baskets containing soy beans, pears, and the bones of game, including swans, pheasants, pigs, and oxen.

There were also copies of her favorite recipes and lacquer dinnerware. There was also a beautiful hand woven funeral banner placed over her coffin. It featured the Lady Dai making her way to the afterlife with cane in hand.

Her love of food became her demise. The autopsy reveled extensive heart disease, a fused disc in her spine, and gallstones. It seems a gallstone blocked one of the gall ducts and caused her already weakened heart to fail.

There was a reddish liquid found in the coffin and scientists can't decided wither the liquid was place there for preservation purposes or was simple water leaking through the tomb and casket.

The corpse is on display at the Hunan Museum in Changsha. Her postmortem story was also featured on Diva Mummy on the National Geographic Channel.

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