Chinese archaeologists have discovered a 2,500-year old tomb containing more than 40 coffins made of a rare wood called nanmu, after a three-month excavation project in east China's Jiangxi Province, local sources said yesterday.
A tomb with that many coffins together has never been unearthed before, said Fan Changsheng, director of the Jiangxi Provincial Institute of Archeology.
The tomb, 16 meters long, about 11.5 meters wide, and three meters deep, is located at Lijia Village in Jing'an County. It is believed to date back to the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-256 BC).
The coffins, 2.5 to 2.8 meters long and 0.5 meters wide, were laid out side by side in an orderly fashion. Archaeologists have not been able to measure their height because they are still sunk into the silt.
Archaeologists are now searching for information about the identity of the remains, the cause of death, the burial date and why the people were buried together, said Fan, adding that care and sophisticated technology are needed to open the coffins in order to preserve the cultural relics and the remains inside.
A group of senior experts from prestigious archaeological institutes across China have arrived at the tomb site and will open the coffins in May.
Archaeologists began the excavation on January 6 to protect the cultural relics after grave robbers attempted to open the rare coffins at the tomb site.
Although the coffins were not damaged by the grave robbers, a dozen cultural relics near the coffins vanished, local police said.
Police have arrested the robbers, seizing cultural relics including bronze woodworking tools, lacquered spoons, and wooden combs.
The discovery will provide valuable clues to the study of social customs, funeral rites, and lifestyle in the area, archaeologists said.
(Xinhua News Agency April 30, 2007)