Chinese archaeologists have discovered over 290 tombs, some of which date back 1,800 years, in Yanqing County, on the northern outskirts of Beijing.
Most of the tombs were built in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) or Tang Dynasty (618-907). Others are believed to belong to the Jin (317-581), Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties (1644-1911).
All the tombs, covering an area of 44,000 square meters, had underground chambers built of brick but the shape of their ceilings were unique to their dynasties.
The excavation was conducted by the Beijing Archaeological Research Institute from July to October in order to preserve the ancient relics in the area, where construction of living quarters is scheduled to start by the end of 2007.
The archaeologists also unearthed 870 historical artifacts, including pottery utensils, china objects, bronze basins, iron items, stone articles, and jade ornaments, said Zhang Shiqun, an expert with the institute.
The unearthed funeral objects will be sent to museums and the tombs will be circled in a protection zone outside the construction project, Zhang said.
The most valuable discovery is that chamber walls of the Tang tombs were decorated with carved bricks that pattern windows, doors, pillars, lanterns, and even a colored fresco representing a beautiful woman, according to Zhang.
The delicate brick carving shows that the Tang tomb owners were members of noble families, he said.
The artifacts will provide valuable clues for the study of how people lived as well as funeral customs of the different eras, the expert added. Research is continuing on the tombs and artifacts and there are no plans at present to display them to the public.
(Xinhua News Agency November 13, 2007)