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on January 17, 2015
Tall, blond-haired Caucasians living thousands of years ago in western China. A mystery worth pursuing.
I give this 5 stars because anthropology and archeology fascinate me. Wouldn't recommend it for someone who isn't interested in prehistoric civilizations. The writing isn't overwhelmingly academic, but it's not light reading by any means. I particularly appreciated the enormous number of gray-scale and color illustrations.
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on March 16, 2017
Its satisfying to learn this ancient history. great book. However, almost all images are black/white, hence, not allot of color detail
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on February 23, 2013
This is a very authoritative and interesting book that goes a long way toward illuminating the fragmentary record -- part written, mostly inferred -- of West-East contacts and mutual influences in Central Asia. Although the mummies of the Tarim depression are themselves fascinating and mutely informative, the book ultimately is about the grand anthropological stage that the vast region, eventually accommodating the famed and long-lived Silk Road, has been for more than four millennia. The book's developmental tack is somewhat reminiscent of a Sherlock Holmes mystery; but, Watson, it is anything but elementary, and we are led purposefully along superficial deductive pathways into frustrating dead-ends that serve to illustrate various premature published attempts to explain the human story of the region from prehistoric times. Non-philologists (like me) will be lost amid the myriad largely inscrutable phonetic transcriptions of words from alien languages, variously Indo-European and Chinese. Although a plausible case finally is made for the identity and language of the earliest (Indo-European) mummies, the evidence probably would not hold up in a criminal case; such, however, are the great difficulties with which archaeologists and historical linguists always must contend. A bit of a slog for the general reader, and perhaps a bit too suspenseful, but nevertheless informative, enlightening and interesting -- therefore, worth reading.
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on March 2, 2014
It seems nobody knows about these Scandinavian/Scottish [or whoever they were] people who lived and are buried in China well before white people are supposed to have made contact with the East. A great read, although looks like a textbook and not a nicely illustrated book of non-fiction.
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on November 5, 2015
A topic of deep interest for me and an excellent addition to my library.
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on March 27, 2015
book received in excellent condition
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on December 20, 2014
Fascinating study of an Indo-European outlier.
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on August 20, 2000
I've had a life long interest in ancient history and have studied it to the MA level. In my exposure to the process of learning the subject, it often seemed to me that somehow god casts a spotlight on earth's stage and the historic cast of one civilization takes center stage does its part and departs. When the curtain rises again, another character steps forward to play its part. None of these individual civilizations seems to have much to do with any of the others. The student is left with little sense of connection and even the time lines seem disconnected. This book is amazing if for no other reason that the highlighted culture(s) of which the mummies were a part are peripheral, marginal ones lying between the East and the West. In attempting to describe the origins of the mummies and the population movements that they indicate, the authors provide a more thorough description of the intereactions of East and West. It's as if all the "characters" are on stage together during any given "act" giving the reader a far more comprehensive view of world history in the making than any other book on an individual topic. In acheiving their overall goal of describing the mummies and their background--cultural, linguistic, genetic, and historic--Mallory and Mair have also achieved a tour de force which puts more of human history into perspective. I expected to learn a great deal about the Tarim mummies of the Taklamakan Desert, I did not anticipate putting much of what I already knew of the ancient world into a more understandable framework. A very impressive book.
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on February 15, 2002
I don't consider myself a fan of "popular" treatments of specialized subject matter, but I couldn't help wishing the authors had even just a hint of a flair for writing.
This volume explores the mystery of the caucasoid mummies found in the heart of central Asia along the ancient silk route. It is written by two eminent scholars actively involved in research on the mummies, so readers can be forgiven for assuming the authors' qualifications would result in an exceptional book. Not so. Sadly, this book suffers from the curse of an overly academic approach. It's a real shame, too, considering the unusual nature of the mummies, their fantastic state of preservation, and the detective work required to reconstruct their story from a relatively few tantalizing clues.
Readers interested in this subject will be pleased with the color photos included, and I don't mean to suggest that this book is not worth reading--far from it--however, the writing is unremittingly turgid, the conclusions predictably cautious and wishy-washy, and when all is said and done it is sadly unsatisfying.
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VINE VOICEon June 2, 2009
This book, by its nature, is both enjoyable and frustrating. The archological evidence that is found bears testament to human history before written history but it cannot speak to us in the same way the written word can.

The authors present what can be known along with their own frustrations of what cannot be known. The authors are very frank in their treatment of the subject of caucasoid/europoid peoples in central asia. They honestly admit there are things they don't and cannot know.

The archeological artifacts are shown and interpreted very conservatively by the authors and others whose research they cite. The subject of who these people were, where they came from, what languages they spoke and how they interacted with asian cultures to the east is treated with scholarly objectivity. The authors stear clear of making pronouncements based upon the evidence that isn't sufficient to support them.

I enjoyed reading about the burial customs, dress, and appearance of the europoid peoples of central asia. Obvious similarities to other european peoples clearly shows coomon origin and cultural outlook. The "witches", complete with tall, conical, wide-brimmed hats shows the power of cultural memory. They look like the "Wicked Witch of the West" from "The Wizard of Oz"!

I would like to point out that if a reader is not truly interested in the subject, they are likely to be bored to tears by the authors' writing style. This is not light reading.

I felt chapter 11 was both unnecessary an annoying. The authors take great pains to show China is a great country with a great legacy of achievement. They do so in such a way that seems an attempt to denigrate european peoples - deliberately. It is quite possible that these europoid peoples brought technologies such as the wheel and bronze to China. This seems a reasonable *possibility* and should be stated frankly without politically-correct quibbling. It seems there is a taboo in presenting the blonde-haired, blue-eyed caucasian as doing something *first* or *best*. Nazi Germany was defeated 60+ years ago. Get over it.

The authors are at their best when evaluating the artifacts and tying them to migrations, languages and cultures. There is much good data in this book and I would recommend it to those interested in the subject.
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