Archaeological Discoveries
in 2001
Archaeological Discoveries
in 2000
Top Ten Archaeological Finds
for 1999
Archaeological Discoveries
in 1999

Western Han Tomb Excavation

  The Shaanxi Provincial People's Government made public the details of the partial excavation of the Yangling Tomb of the Western Han Dynasty on September 16, 1999. The Yangling Tomb, a Western Han (202 B.C.-16 A.D.) imperial mausoleum that had been undisturbed for about 2,100 years, has been excavated partially. Found in the tomb were color-painted nude pottery figurines, and 90 large subordinate burial pits around it, covering an area of more than 7,000 square meters. In these pits, a large number of cultural relics were found. Also discovered was the largest human sacrifice graveyard ever found in China up to now. A total of 5,000 sacrificial burial tombs have been verified, and the graveyard covers a total area of 3.5 square km. From the excavated 280 sacrificial tombs, more than 5,000 pieces and sets of various kinds of cultural relics were unearthed.
   The Yangling mausoleum is the joint tomb of Liu Qi, Emperor Jingdi of Han (188-141 B.C.), and the empress of the king Xiaojing, situated on the Xianyang plateau in Shaanxi Province. It is the farthest east of the nine Western Han imperial mausoleums on the loess plateau.
  From 1991 to October of 1994,large-scale archaeological excavations and studies of the Yangling Tomb were launched. From a site, which accounts for only one thirteenth of the total area of the sacrificial burial pits, about 600 color-painted pottery figurines and 4,000 pieces of various cultural relics were unearthed. The figurines included warriors escorting the imperial chariot, attendants watching over boxes and cases, cattle drovers and clerks. There were also animal models produced in different styles.
   Researchers found that these Han figurines were first modeled as nude bodies, painted with hair and skin colors, fitted with movable wooded arms and hands, and then clothed. The clothing was damaged and the wooden arms had rotted over the centuries. But the colors remain as bright as when they were first painted.
   The figurines generally are 62 centimeters tall. They have (male or female) sex organs, navels and all the functional bodily orifices. The animal figurines include pigs, dogs, sheep, cocks and hens, all made in a vivid and lively style.