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3,000-year-old Ancient State Found in Shanxi

A small ancient state dating back nearly 3,000 years, which was never recorded in historical documents, has been discovered in north China's Shanxi Province.

Archaeologists deduced the existence of the previously unknown state, Peng, from inscriptions on bronze ware excavated from two ancient Western Zhou Dynasty tombs (1100 BC-771 BC).

The owners of the two tombs, discovered in Hengshui Town of Jiangxian County in Shanxi Province, were the ruler of the state, Pengbo (meaning Count of Peng State), and his wife.

Li Boqian, director of the archaeological research center of the prestigious Beijing University, said at an archaeological forum recently in Beijing that the discovery of the Western Zhou graves in Hengshui is the most important archaeological discovery since the excavation of the graves of the Marquis of Jin, another state of the Western Zhou Dynasty, in Quwo County of Shanxi Province.

The newly found ancient state will help archaeologists and historians better understand the history of the Western Zhou Dynasty and its jurisdiction, Li said.

More than 80 tombs have been excavated at the site in Hengshui, with the tombs of Pengbo and his wife the largest ones. The couple were buried side by side with lots of funeral objects such as bronze ware, carriages and jade, said Song Jianzhong, deputy director of the Institute of Archaeology of Shanxi Province.

One of the most important findings in the graves is the remains of a pall covering the coffins. The remains of the pall, already blended with earth after several thousand years, are still a vivid red color. Phoenix patterns can be seen on the pall, said Song.

"This is the oldest, best preserved and largest tomb decoration object so far discovered in China," said Song.

A total of 16 pieces of bronze were unearthed from the two tombs. The inscriptions on the bronze show that one of the tombs belonged to Pengbo and the other to his wife.

"Ding" bronzeware was a symbol of power and status in the Western Zhou Dynasty. Archaeologists noted that five pieces of Ding were found in Pengbo's wife's tomb, and only three in Pengbo's tomb.

"It's quite rare in ancient China, since males enjoyed higher status than females," said Li Boqian, adding that it is probably because Pengbo's wife's parents were of high status.

Five serial bells, of great value to the study of China's musical history, were also found in the graves.

(Xinhua News Agency January 14, 2006)

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