A 300-year-old burial area, in which two bodies were reduced to skeletons while one was perfectly preserved, has left Chinese archaeologists baffled.
When one of the coffins was opened, the man’s face, experts claim, was perfectly preserved.
Within hours, however, the face started to go black, and a foul smell began to emanate from the body.
The skin on the corpse - which has now been taken to the local university for study - also turned black.
The body is thought to be from the Qing Dynasty.
It was unearthed on October 10 on a construction site in a two metre-deep hole in the ground at Xiangcheng in Henan province, central China.
Dr Lukas Nickel, a specialist in Chinese art and archaeology at SOAS, University of London, told MailOnline that preservations such as these were not intentional.
'The Chinese did not do any treatment of the body to preserve it as known from ancient Egypt, for instance.
'They did, however, try to protect the body by putting it into massive coffins and stable tomb chambers.
'So the integrity of the physical structure of the body was important to them. In early China, at least, one expected the dead person to live on in the tomb.'
Occasionally bodies in the Qing Dynasty were preserved by the natural conditions around the coffin.
In this case, the body may have had a lacquered coffin, covered in charcoal - which was common at the time. This means bacteria would have been unable to get in.
Dr Nickel added that if this was the case, as soon as air hit the body, the natural process would be for it to turn black and quickly disintegrate.