Chinese archaeologists announced Sunday that they have found the earliest Western Han Dynasty (BC 206 - 25 AD) royal mausoleum ever unearthed in China.
Located 40 kilometers east of Jinan, capital of east China's Shandong Province, the mausoleum was first discovered when a local farmer detected a pit that contains funerary objects while building a highway.
The following 15 months of continuous work disclosed 20 such pits respectively to the south, north and east of the main rave, unparalleled by any graves previously unearthed in terms of either the number of pits with funerary objects or the value of items found in them.
Judging from the earth seal already found, archaeologists decided that the mausoleum dates back to BC 186, about a century earlier than the Laoshan grave currently unearthed in Beijing.
Archaeologists deduced from the plentiful things in the pits that the owner of this mausoleum could be of royal standing like a king. Some argued that it could be the elder son of Liu Bang, the first emperor of the Western Han Dynasty.
Found buried in the pits were over 2,000 pieces of relics, ranging from a horse cart, food to containers, weapons and sacrifice like cows buried alive.
The most amazing discovery was a large pit of musical instruments which, according to Dr. Cui Dayong, responsible for the excavation, "could make a grand palace orchestra."
The pit, measuring 20 meters long, three meters wide and high, has inside nearly 150 pieces of ancient Chinese musical instruments, all of which are still in good condition.
However, the genuine identity of the owner will not be known until the main grave is unearthed.
Lu Zhaoying, who specializes in Han dynasty archaeology, said that this mausoleum provides important clues to understanding royal graves of the Western Han Dynasty.