Chinese researchers discovered a series of tombs in a 1,700-year-old cemetery along China’s Silk Road, the ancient commercial routes between China and the Roman Empire. The cemetery – located in Kucha, a northeastern Chinese city – features 10 tombs, out of which seven are larger brick structures. The 10 tombs were unearthed by archeologists in 2007, but the results had initially been published in a Chinese journal. The English translation was recently published in the newly established journal Chinese Cultural Relics. Zhiyong Yu, director of Xinjiang Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, led the research in conjunction with local authorities.
Some of the 1,700-year-old tombs display prominent features, indicating that the humans remains inside could belong to high status figures. However, no names or other clues regarding the identity of the people buried inside the tombs have been discovered. The tombs appear to have been raided, meaning potential clues had probably been separated from their previous owners. Moreover, researchers discovered multiple skeletal remains in each tomb. Analysis showed that people reused the tombs according to Utah People’s Post.
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Arguably the most impressive tomb is M3, a highly complex structure which “consists of a burial mound, ramp, sealed gate, tomb entrance, screen walls, passage, burial chamber and side chamber,” according to Chinese archeologists, who first published their results in Chinese journal Wenwu.
M3 features complex decorations, various carvings of mythical creatures, such as the White Tiger of the West, the Vermilion Bird of the South, the Black Turtle of the North and the Azure Dragon of the East, LiveScience reported.
The Silk Road encompasses a series of routes between Europe and Eastern Asia. On land, it stretches close to 4,000 miles long, but ships have connected China and Europe through Egypt as well during various periods of history.
Kucha was one of the northernmost key locations along the Silk Road. Its position rendered the city vital to the Chinese central administration, when the tombs were constructed 1,700 years ago.