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Mystery Coffins Opened in 2,500-year-old Tomb in E. China
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Chinese archaeologists have started to excavate a 2,500-year old tomb containing 47 coffins made of a rare wood called nanmu in east China's Jiangxi Province.

The tomb, in Lijia village in Jing'an county, is 16 meters long, about 11.5 meters wide and three meters deep. It is believed to date back to the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-221 B.C.).

It is the largest group of coffins ever discovered in a single tomb and the excavation has been dubbed "the most important archaeology project of the year" by cultural experts and media.

Archaeologists had opened ten coffins on Sunday, finding a relatively complete human skeleton as well as many bronze, gold and silk items, porcelain and jade.

The coffins, 2.5 to 2.8 meters long and 0.5 meters wide, were laid out side by side in an orderly fashion. They are being transported to a nearby storehouse to be kept in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment.

Archaeologists had yet to determine the identities of the remains, the causes of death, the burial date and why they were buried together, said Fan Changsheng, director of the Jiangxi Provincial Institute of Archeology.

A group of cultural, palaeoanthropological, geological and forestry and archeological experts across China have arrived at the site for a joint research project.

The discovery could provide valuable clues to the study of social customs, funeral rites and lifestyles in the area, experts said.

(Xinhua News Agency July 1, 2007)

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