Wooden phalluses found at lost burial site in Xinjiang desert
|Kharkarin Rock near the Erdene Zuu Monastery in Mongolia. Archaeologists believe|
that large phallus-shaped sculptures like this played an important role in ancient rituals
[Credit: University of Chinese Academy of Sciences]
They were smaller than expected and mostly painted red to highlight their sacred status - hinting at their use in certain religious rituals.
They were found by a research team led by Yang Yimin, a professor of archaeological science at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.
Phallicism, also known as male organ worship, was a common ritual in many ancient cultures, with archaeologists often encountering relics representing sexual organs in tombs and other excavation sites.
The tomb complex ranks as one of the largest and oldest burial sites in the world for mummies. The bronze-age burial site dates back to 1980BC, houses around 330 tombs, and contains more than 30 well-preserved mummies.
It was officially discovered by Swedish explorer Folke Bergman in the early 1930s with the aid of a local hunter who had stumbled upon the site some two decades earlier. The site was then obscured for decades by desert storms that shifted the sands of the surrounding desert.
In 2003, government-sponsored archaeologists in Xinjiang rediscovered it. They found that half of the tombs had been looted and the others undisturbed, with shrivelled corpses of both men and women well-preserved in boat-shaped coffins wrapped in cattle hides.
|The Xiaohe (“small river”) Tomb complex was discovered in Lop Nur, a dried-up|
salt lake and township of the same name in Northwest China’s Xinjiang province.
The site is located between two deserts - the Taklamakan and Kumtag
The females also carried leather bags attached to the right side of their waists, which included cosmetic “sticks” made from bovine hearts, according to studies conducted by Yang’s team.
Chemical analysis of the paint on the sticks showed them to be hematite powders - hematite is a blood red-coloured iron ore - that matched other daubings on the faces, personal items and even phallic artefacts of the mummies.
“So using cattle hearts as tools to paint red marks on the human face, as well as on objects such as vertical wooden pillars and wooden phalluses … was a sacred and significant religious form of behaviour for the Xiaohe people,” the team wrote in the paper.
“Using [the] heart as a painting tool may indicate that ‘blood worship’ was a signature of this socio-religious culture.”
Huang Shouyu, a historian based in Changsha, in central China’s Hunan province, agreed that the replica wooden genitals at the tomb complex were likely used for religious purposes.
But Huang, who has authored several books on sexual worship in ancient Chinese cultures, said that as the relics were uncommonly small for this purpose, they could have served another role - as pleasure-giving sex toys.
“They may have served as both sacred items and sex toys,” he said.
“It probably would have made little difference to our ancestors.”
Author: Stephen Chen | Source: South China Morning Post [February 04, 2016]