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The world’s best preserved ancient corpses

For immediate release July 21 2004

NHNZ films what may be the world’s best preserved ancient corpses

Two thousand year old corpses able to be autopsied as if they were recently dead feature in a NHNZ documentary, The Diva Mummy. The programme reveals three tombs, each from a similar period and geographic location. While they have been known to Chinese authorities for several years, the NHNZ footage of the ancient corpses is rarely shown outside China. Co-produced with National Geographic Channels, Arte and Chinese production company Viewpoint Communications, The Diva Mummy explores the advanced ancient body preservation techniques of China’s Han Dynasty.

Producer Steve Talley says the corpses’ state of preservation astounded both pathologists and archaeologists.

“These bodies look and act like they died yesterday. Their skin and limbs are supple; all their internal organs are intact and, most amazingly, they still have red blood in their veins.” While no hypothesis has revealed how the Han morticians achieved the extraordinary level of preservation, several reasons have been considered including the extraordinary tomb building methods used. “The tomb construction itself is magnificent: a massive invented pyramid over 40 feet deep containing numerous smaller chambers inside larger chambers.

These are incredible feats of engineering. “The period from when the tombs were found was one of peace and prosperity; the lives of the rich were one big party. It appears they wanted that party to extend into the afterlife,” says Steve. The tomb contained over 1000 luxury items intended to be enjoyed in the afterlife. Many of these were food and drink. NHNZ Managing Director Michael Stedman says the production builds on the already strong relationship NHNZ has with Chinese companies.

“Through The Diva Mummy we have forged excellent working relationships with both Chinese scientists and television producers. I know that we will work with many of the same people on future projects which promise to reveal more about the rich and complex history of China.” The Diva Mummy has had strong market interest, and distributor Off The Fence has already sold UK rights to Channel Five.


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