Alkalescent fluid seems to have kept a 2,000-year-old female corpse intact, though it is widely believed that bacteria grow and reproduce faster in an alkaline environment, say experts.
The well-preserved corpse, which is believed to date from the Western Han Dynasty (BC 206 - AD 24), was unearthed on July 8 at a construction site in Lianyungang, eastern Jiangsu Province.
Earlier reports said the corpse still had elastic muscle tissue after being immersed in a special fluid in her coffin.
The fluid had a PH scale of 7.55, said Bai Ling, a pathological expert at the No. 1 People's Hospital in Lianyungang City, after a preliminary study.
Xu Yongqing, a corpse preservation specialist based in Shanghai, found this was "surprising" because he and his colleagues have always believed only acidic fluid could preserve corpses by keeping bacteria from growing and reproducing inside the coffin.
Acidic fluid was found in a casket unearthed earlier at the famous Mawangdui Han Dynasty Tomb in Changsha, central China's Hunan Province, said Xu.
Xu and his colleagues assumed the fluid had seeped into the casket over time, as it was not the Chinese custom to fill the coffin with preservative fluid prior to burial.
Experts are still analyzing the fluid, which was found to have a density of 1.01 and to contain hemoglobin.
A rectangular lacquered box, bamboo food container, comb, copper mirror, lock of hair with a hairpin, and a clearly-written list of burial articles were also found in the coffin.
(People's Daily July 20, 2002)