3,648 tombs spanning over 2,200 yrs found in NW China city

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Archaeologists have excavated 3,648 ancient tombs spanning more than 2,200 years of history in Xianyang city in northwest China's Shaanxi province.

The provincial cultural relics bureau said Thursday that multiple clusters of family cemeteries from the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) to the Tang Dynasty (618-907), including tombs of historical figures recorded in biographies, were found during the latest excavation in Weicheng District of Xianyang.

The excavation site is located in the north of the ancient capital of the Han and Tang dynasties, Chang'an, which is today's Xi'an.

The burial area holds royal relatives, senior officials and dignitaries recorded in the annals of Han and Tang dynasties. Among them, a younger male cousin of Tang dynasty Emperor Xuanzong and an elder male cousin of Wu Zetian, China's only empress, were buried in the area, said Li Ming, a researcher with Shaanxi Academy of Archaeology.

However, with the onset of the Song, Ming and Qing dynasties, the area was more often used as a graveyard for ordinary people. More than 16,000 pieces of relics were found during the excavation of more than one year.

In the history of Chinese archaeology, there has never been an instance when so many tombs were excavated from the same cemetery, spanning such a long period of time, with such distinguished tomb owners, Li noted.

The findings are expected to provide a rare sample for the study of the continuity and change of ancient Chinese funeral rites, Li said.

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