Archaeologists have made significant find in Jiangxi Province in eastern China. An excavation near Nanchang, the provincial capital, uncovered that largest burial ever found in China. Dating back more than 2,000 years to the West Han Dynasty (206 B.C.--25 A.D.), archaeologists found the royal tombs of the Marquis of Haihun State.
Known as the Haihunhou cemetery, it is located less than a mile from Nanchang. It covers some 10 acres of land. Experts found a chariot burial site with walls that extend for almost 3,000 feet. In addition, eight distinct tombs were discovered.
Aerial view of the site
Archeologists believe that the main tomb was the final resting place of Liu He, grandson of Emperor Wu, the greatest ruler of Han Dynasty, which was one of the most prosperous periods in China's history. Liu was given the title "Haihunhou" (Marquis of Haihun) after he was deposed as emperor after only 27 days, having been cast down by the royal clan because of “his lack of talent and morals,” according to official sources. Haihun is the ancient name of a small kingdom in the north of Jiangxi.
Xu Changqing, director of Jiangxi provincial cultural relics research institute, said on November 5 that burials are the most complete and best preserved Han Dynasty tomb cluster ever discovered. The foundations of the tombs thought to be of Haihunhou and his wife, can be clearly seen, as well as affiliated memorial temples. There are also roads and drainage systems in the cemetery.
The team have found more than 10 metric tons of Wuzhu bronze coins, as well as more than 10,000 other gold, bronze and iron items. They brought to light jade objects, as well as wooden tablets and bamboo artifacts, said team leader Xin Lixiang of the China National Museum, according to a statement.
Xin has studied some 4,000 Han Dynasty tombs. He said that the team will next take a peek at what may be hidden in the locked sarcophagus in the central mausoleum. "There may be a royal seal and jade clothes that will suggest the status and identity of the tombs occupant," he said.
Experts continue to analyze and catalog the thousands of artifacts
So far, the archaeologists have recovered musical instruments such as chimes, se (a 25-stringed plucked instrument), panflutes and sheng (a reed pipe wind instrument), as well as terracotta figurines showing how the instruments were played. Among the finds, was a huge hoard -weighing hundreds of pounds - of Han Dynasty bronze coins, each featuring a central hole to simplify carrying them. This was a style that was to continue for centuries. They were once so plentiful that sewing baskets were decorated with them for export to Europe and the United States.
A chariot wheel is carefully tweezed from the muck
This is the only tomb excavated to the south of Yangtze River that has been found with vehicles. "The chariot burial is an important part of the tomb," Xu said. His team found five well-preserved horse-drawn vehicles. Each one had four sacrificed horses, and more than 3,000 accessories embellished with gold and silver. "The discovery will be important for the study of hierarchical burial customs and articles used in burial," he said.
One of the most magnificent pieces found: a bronze urn
The team now believes that the site may be the site of the capital of the Haihun Kingdom, due the presence of so many elite burials. “The discovery can help us understand the social, economic and cultural status in Western Han Dynasty, and even the development of music, transportation, metrology, and the evolution of Chinese characters and arts," Xu said.
Thousands of items, made of bronze, gold, and wood were found
The Vice Minister of China’s government office that controls cultural artifacts, Li Xiaojie, ordered that work of the cemetery should be be submitted for consideration as UNESCO world heritage listing.
A bronze object that may have once held incense
Jiangxi's cultural department use high-tech sampling and recording to document information and data. Several labs and research teams have been set up to work separately on paleobotany, zooarchaeology as well as studies on textiles, metals and historical records.