While Greek sculptors made the legendary Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the world's Seven Wonders, in Turkey over 2,300 years ago, Chinese aristocrats were building hundreds of tombs in Luoyang, an ancient capital of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-256 BC).
Up to 279 tombs and 10 sacrificial pits for horses and horse-drawn vehicles of the time have been found lying within a mere 6,000-square-meter area in Luoyang city in central China's Henan Province. Historians believe the mausoleum was destroyed as early as the 11th century.
Archaeologists found the tombs at a construction site in the central square in the downtown city. The site is referred to as graveyards for noble families of the period in local records.
A sacrificial horse pit, believed to be the largest of its kind discovered so far in Luoyang, is under excavation with experts on hand eager to unravel its secrets. Horses and vehicles used to be buried alongside human bodies to indicate the dead person's status in ancient China.
The 19 small tombs already unearthed, containing earthenware and jade articles, have been categorized as those for common people, while two bigger ones, with horses, vehicle pits and a special tunnel to the coffin chamber, belonged to noble families, according to experts.
So far over 1,000 tombs from the Eastern Zhou Dynasty have been excavated in this region.
A 1950s archaeological search discovered 260 tombs of the same period in the city, and the findings helped clarify the time-frame for earthenware use in ancient central China.
With no official record of the 279 tombs, the discovery would provide valuable clues in the study of the funeral culture and tomb styles of the period, experts said.
(Xinhua News Agency August 10, 2002)