SCIENCE
10/18/2013 05:04 pm ET

Chinese Mummy Unearthed But Then Suddenly Vanishes (PHOTO)

CEN / Europics

Spooky.

Media outlets in China reported last week that construction workers there had unearthed a surprisingly well-preserved mummy along with two skeletons -- but that all three vanished soon thereafter.

The remains were discovered in a tomb unearthed at a construction site in Xiangcheng City, in China's Henan province, Sina News reported. The skeletons weren't in great shape but the mummy was astonishingly well-preserved.

“The mummy’s face was black but his facial features could be seen clearly," a witness said, according to Sina News. "He wore a robe of Qing dynasty and a long braided ponytail."

The Qing dynasty, which lasted from 1644 to around 1910, was the last of China's imperial dynasties. During this time period, Han Chinese males often wore a long braided ponytail, called a queue.

What explains the mummy's remarkable condition? Dr. Lukas Nickel, professor of art and archaeology at the University of London, told The Huffington Post in an email that it was not customary to embalm bodies at that time. But under certain conditions, he said, "bodies can be preserved, especially if the coffin was airtight and protected against environmental influences."

A famous example of such preservation is the Marquise of Dai mummy, Nickel said. Discovered in China's Hunan province, the Marquise was buried in nested, lacquered coffins surrounded by charcoal that perfectly preserved the ancient remains.

While the Xiangcheng City mummy might have been an opportunity for further archaeological study, it now appears that the mummy was removed from its burial site -- and there have been no reports as to where it went. Strange.

The disappearance was of great concern to the local villagers, who believe the mummified remains belonged to a male ancestor, and that the two skeletons are those of his two wives, Sina reported in a follow-up story. Unless the remains are located and given a proper reburial, the villagers worry that their ancestors will beunable to rest in peace, according to a translation of local news site Dayoo.com.

ALSO ON HUFFPOST:

Unearthed

CONVERSATIONS