The 2,200-year-old mummified body of a Chinese noblewoman known as Xin Zhui, or The Lady of Dai, is an anomaly. When her body was discovered, it was so incredibly well preserved that it equalled that of someone recently deceased.
Xin Zhui, the Lady of Dai , died between 178 and 145 BC, at around 50 years of age. The objects inside her tomb indicated a woman of wealth and importance. In 1971, her Han Dynasty -era tomb was discovered accidentally by workers digging an air raid shelter.
A wax sculpture of Xin Zhui, The Lady of Dai ( Flazaza / CC by SA 4.0 )
When her body was first examined, her skin was still moist and elastic, her joints still flexible, every feature remained intact down to her eyelashes and the hair in her nostrils. Even the blood still remained in her veins. Pathologists found 138 undigested melon seeds in her oesophagus, stomach, and intestines – she had eaten the melon just one hour before her death.
Her organs were still intact, even down to the lungs vagus (nerve), which is as thin as hair. Blood clots were found in her veins and evidence was found of a coronary heart attack, as well as a host of other ailments and diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, liver disease, and gallstones. The Lady Dai died of a heart attack at the age of 50, brought on by obesity, lack of exercise and an over-indulgent diet.
The Lady of Dai is one of the best-preserved mummies ever found. The condition is owed to the fact that her body had been swaddled in 20 layers of silk and she was found in 80 liters of an unknown liquid that was mildly acidic with some magnesium in it. She was placed within four layers of coffins, which were within an airtight, clay-lined burial vault 12 meters underground.
The Lady of Dai’s body has now deteriorated due to exposure to oxygen, but nevertheless remains in reasonable condition where it is housed in the Hunan Provincial Museum.
The body of Xin Zhui, Lady of Dai, as it is today. ( Public Domain )
Read more: ‘ The Enduring Mystery of the Lady of Dai Mummy’
Top image: The autopsy of Xin Zhui, Lady of Dai. Source: Hunan Provincial Museum.
By Joanna Gillan
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