Image: Aurel Stein
A Tarim Basin mummy photographed circa 1910
The door creaked open, and there in the gloom of the newly opened room, perfectly preserved despite the passing of thousands of years, a red-haired mummy with Caucasian features stared back. It was a life-changing moment for archaeologist Professor Victor Mair, and ten years on it still gave him chills. Mair had stumbled upon the recently discovered corpses of a man and his family in a museum in the Chinese city of Ürümqi, but the shock waves of the find would be felt far and wide.