A Buddha statue in China examined by researchers using a CT scan, like those in medical facilities, was found to contain the remains of an actual mummy.
The 1,000-year-old monument is painted in gold, and the body inside discovered when examinations of the artifact started, soon after its discovery. The latest investigation involved studies of samples from the body itself, as well as the CT scan.
However, the mummy discovery contrary to some reports is not as shocking as it may seem, as The History Blog notes: “It was known to be inside the statue all along … that’s why it was sent to the Drents Museum in the first place as part of the Mummies exhibition.”
Inside the statue, the body may be the remains of a well-respected monk who may have achieved status as an enlightened being. The artifact was likely stored in southeastern China for several centuries, housed at a monastery.
During the Cultural Revolution, which began in China in 1966, Mao Zedong encouraged Chinese citizens to seize private property, in an effort to rid the nation of bourgeois cultural influences. Investigators believe the statue may have left China during this time, before being sold in the Netherlands, to a private buyer. When the new owner decided to have the artifact restored in 1966, the restorer first noticed the statue appeared to be kneeling on a pair of pillows.
When these were removed, the human remains inside were first seen. The mummy was sitting on a rolled pillow, inscribed with writing.
“He looked right into the bottom of this monk. You can see part of the bones and tissue of his skin,” said Vincent van Vilsteren, archaeology curator at the Drents Museum in Holland.
The outer shell of the statue is composed of a form of papier-mâché, covered in lacquer.
Samples from the artifact were examined by researchers, looking for ratios of different isotopes of carbon, in order to determine its age. This investigation revealed that the monk likely lived sometime in the 11th or 12th centuries, while the carpet on which he sat was found to be about two centuries older than the body.
The mummy was studied with CT scans at both Meander Medical Center in Amersfoort, Netherlands, as well as Mannheim University Hospital in Germany.