Tuesday, 9 December 2008

China, Archaeology, Xinjiang & Oil

by Derry Nairn

A fascinating article over at Archaeology Magazine's blog covers how ancient discoveries can have meaning for the present and deep ramifications for the future. The author, Heather Pringle, eloquently describes how she sometimes has to justify her study of objects and times past, a sentiment common to those of us in history publishing:
People often ask me why I write about archaeology. I can see from their puzzled looks that they think of archaeology as something irrelevant, so musty and obscure and distant from modern life that it scarcely warrants serious attention from a journalist. Indeed, whenever I have a conversation with my older brother, a successful lawyer, about book ideas I have, he looks at me with genuine concern. “Do you think anyone will be interested in that?” he asks in bewilderment
The article then goes on to describe how mummies excavated in Xinjiang, a predominantly Muslim and separatist Chinese province, have been seized upon by locals as proof that their ethnic grouping has ancient claims to the land. Unsurprisingly, the Chinese government is reluctant to admit to anything which would challenge their established territorial claim over oil-rich Xinjiang province. And so requests to release the mummies for DNA tests have been refused.

Read the full article at Archaeology Magazine's blog.

Read about the grand imperial history of Islamic central Asia in Francis Robinson's A Forgotten Region

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