The UPenn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology was supposed to be showing “Secrets of the Silk Road,” what looks to be an amazing show of artifacts from western China which has already toured a few other locations. The highlight of the exhibition: two mummies from the Tarim Basin, mummies which bear striking resemblances in bone structure, hair color, clothing, etc. to Causasians, and less resemblance to Uighyurs or quote-unquote “Mongoloid man,” i.e. Chinese or other East Asian groups.
I was totally envious for those who get to see this show, having seen a TV program some years ago about these mummies, about this incredible find, and about how the Chinese gov’t was being kind of hush-hush about it and trying to suppress announcements about these findings, fearing, I guess, that it would present some challenge to the idea of Han Chinese ancestral rights to these lands.
Well, the mummies, along with all sorts of other artifacts, were allowed to leave China, and to tour several venues this past year, but now, on the eve of the exhibition’s opening at UPenn, China has requested that none of the artifacts, nor the mummies, be shown. All the objects are already at UPenn, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are (or were, up until yesterday or today) already installed, completely set up and ready for opening. …
Typical dick move, China. I hope the curators and professors and whomever are actively negotiating to be allowed to show the objects. One might be tempted to say screw ’em and show the objects anyway, but then, that could have disastrous results not only for UPenn’s future efforts to obtain loans of objects from China, but for all US museums. Here’s hoping the negotiations can be successful.
In the meantime, the exhibit has been modified to consist chiefly of maps, photos, videos, and other such non-artifact displays and reproductions, and the admission fee has been waived. The exhibition runs from February 5 to June 5, at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia.