University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Past Special Exhibition at the Penn Museum

Mummies of the Tarim Basin was open from April 9, 2011 through June 5, 2011.

Jeffery Newbury's photographs of the Tarim Basin mummies define these ancient people for our age, and probably for all time.

Although many other photographers (including some who are very famous) subsequently captured the images of the mummies, none of them have ever come close to capturing the spirit and the soul of these long deceased individuals as Jeffery Newbury has done.

Not only are Jeffery Newbury's photographs of the Tarim Basin mummies the best, they were also the first to be taken by a professional from abroad. On assignment for Discover magazine in 1994, Mr. Newbury went to Urumchi without a guide or interpreter. Conditions were very difficult: the temperature in the Museum where the mummies lay was bone-chilling; the local electrical circuits kept blowing out his lamps, until he was reduced to using makeshift lighting; so intensely devoted to his work was Mr. Newbury that he simply forgot about eating for most of the days while he was there.

Despite all of the challenges Mr. Newbury faced on location, the results are stunning. These photographs turned out to be the most revealing portraits of the Tarim Basin mummies that have ever been made. I have often said that they are so wonderfully evocative because Mr. Newbury, who is a distinguished American celebrity and fashion photographer, treated the ancient humans he photographed as real people. It was a stroke of genius on the part of the editors of Discover magazine to send a genius like Jeffery Newbury to make such remarkable portraits of these prehistoric individuals from the heart of Eurasia.

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