Lady Xin Zhui – 5 facts about the world’s best-preserved mummy

John Henrique Nov 5, 2020

Scientists have identified an acidic liquid on Lady Xin Zhui’s skin that may have helped preserve it, but we still don’t know exactly what that liquid is.

In 1971, one of the best-preserved mummies ever discovered was found at the Mawangdui archaeological site in China.

The finding surprised everyone: although it is common to find mummies in Egypt, it was not there that the discovery was made.

That was enough to surprise the researchers, but the most intriguing about this discovery was the mummy’s state of preservation. Amazingly, the woman’s skin and blood remained intact even millennia after her death.

With that in mind, we have written a list of 5 facts about Lady Xin Zhui’s impressive mummy that you probably didn’t know.

1. The mummy was found perfectly preserved

Lady Xin Zhui's mummy
Lady Xin Zhui’s mummy. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons).

Approximately 50 years ago, a mummy was found in China, inside a large and complex tomb. It didn’t take long for her to be identified: the researchers promptly claimed that it was Xin Zhui’s body.

The woman, also known as Lady Dai or Marquise of Dai, because she was the wife of the Marquis of Dai, Chancellor of Changsha Kingdom, was perfectly preserved inside her tomb.

According to scientists, her state of preservation was at the level of a living creature, with blood, organs, and skin intact.

2. First scientific studies

When the mummy was discovered, medical examinations were soon performed on the body to try to understand its main features.

It was so well preserved that it was possible to carry out several invasive research without damaging it.

During the autopsy, the scientists identified Xin Zhui’s blood as type A. They also discovered that she died after a fatal heart attack at age 50 and that she led a sedentary lifestyle as part of royalty.

In addition, they found something quite creepy: traces of worms, when she was still alive, probably due to an extreme lack of hygiene.

3. Lady Xin Zhui had several illnesses

(Credit: Wikimedia Commons).

Worms, however, were not Lady Dai’s only problems. Subsequent scientific analyzes performed on the body revealed that the woman had numerous chronic diseases during her life.

Traces of osteoporosis, gallstones, herniated disc, back pain, coronary thrombosis, arteriosclerosis, and heart problems have been found.

In the tomb where she was discovered, there were still many medicines used at the time, such as substances to fight paralysis, asthma, and headaches.

4. She was extremely wealthy

Complete layout of Xin Zhui's tomb.
Complete layout of Xin Zhui’s tomb. (Credit: Getty Images).

Due to the high social status of the woman and her husband, she was buried in an extremely luxurious tomb.

The entire grave represented her position in society while she was alive, showing the importance of the postmortem period for the Chinese.

Apart from all the wealth with which she was buried, Xin Zhui also had health books and works of art with her.

5. The mystery goes on

Scientists have never seen a mummy so well preserved before. And of course, Xin Zhui did not end up well preserved by chance.

During the investigation of the tomb, scientists found that its interior was covered with 20 layers of silk, glued together with clay and coal.

Taking this into account, they concluded that the corpse was vacuum-sealed, so the decomposing agents were unable to reach it.

However, something even more strange was discovered: in the mummy’s skin, an acidic liquid was found.

The substance may have helped to preserve Xin Zhui’s body, but we still don’t know what that liquid is. One hypothesis, however, is that it is a compound with antiseptic properties.

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Written by John Henrique

John has a degree in IT and is the founder of Hyperaxion. He is a science enthusiast and can usually be found reading a book or playing role-playing games.


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