In June, three ancient "hanging coffins" were found in a rock cave on the bank of the Yangtze River in Zigui, Yichang of Central China's Hubei Province.
They were among the finds local cultural heritage staff made as they raced to research and rescue ancient ruins along the Yangtze River before they were lost forever under the rising waters of the second phase of the Three Gorges Dam project.
The coffins, made of wood, possibly belong to the legendary Ba people who are thought to have inhabited the vast area which today comprises southern Shaanxi, Hubei and eastern Sichuan provinces and Chongqing Municipality during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), experts say.
Two of the coffins each contain a complete human skeleton dressed in silk clothes and wrapped in bamboo sheets.
Also found in the coffins are a number of funerary objects, including bronze wine or food containers, weapons such as a bronze spear and ge (ancient Chinese weapon with a long shaft and a horizontal blade), bamboo bows, arrows and arrow cases.
The images of tigers, believed to be the major symbol of the Ba people, decorate the clothes found on the bodies, and also the weapons and other funerary objects, said Mei Yunlai, a local archaeologist and curator of the Quyuan Memorial Hall and Museum.
"The findings in these coffins offer valuable clues to the mystery of the ancient Ba people who left behind little written evidence of their existence," said Mei.
(China Daily July 28, 2003)