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Excavated from Xiaohe (Little River)
In the summer of 1934, the Swedish archeologist, Folke Bergman, discovered an important Bronze Age burial ground in the desert about a hundred miles to the west of the fabled ruins of Kroraina (Uyghur: Krorän; Modern Standard Mandarin [MSM]: Loulan). This hillock-shaped cemetery came to be known as Ördek’s Necropolis, but is more precisely referred to as Small River Cemetery Number 5 (in MSM it is called “Xiaohe Mudi”). After Bergman in 1939 published a detailed report on his investigations at the cemetery, the site went unvisited for more than half a century until the year 2000, when it was rediscovered by a Chinese documentary crew using Global Positioning System instrumentation.
In the three seasons between 2002 and 2005, the Small River Cemetery has been extensively excavated, and an abundant amount of textiles, ornaments, implements, and other artifacts have been recovered. In addition, more than thirty well- preserved mummies, together with the coffins in which they were buried, were exhumed from the sandy necropolis. These latest findings match those of Bergman very closely, but multiply them greatly. Although it will take years to analyze all of the new materials, already we can draw some important inferences from them about the religious beliefs and practices of the community who buried their dead here. The recent excavations have also yielded rich resources for the study of the ethnic identity and cultural affiliations of the deceased. The present paper is the first technically oriented introduction in English to the surveys and excavations carried out by Uyghur and Chinese archeologists during the past five years.
Victor H. Mair
University of Pennsylvania
From: The Rediscovery and Complete Excavation of Ördek’s Necropolis