Digging to start on horse-chariot chamber

Updated: 2007-11-30 07:17

JINGZHOU, Hubei: Archaeologists are starting work on the horse-chariot chamber of a tomb that dates back up to 2,400 years - more than a century older than the world-renowned Terracotta Warriors near Xi'an.

Yan Pin, director of the archaeology bureau of Jingzhou, Hubei Province, where the tomb is located, said: "Excavation is ready to start on the 131-m-long horse-chariot sector of the Xiongjiazhong Tomb before February."

The tomb is the largest and best preserved from the State of Chu during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC). The excavation was formally launched last August after three comprehensive surveys were made since 1979.

"We have found more than 30 horse-and-chariot pits arrayed in a row in the tomb. It is the largest of such finds from the Warring States Period," Yan said.

The excavation has been progressing scoop by scoop, but work has been assisted by state-of-the-art mapping and computer technology, he said.

Archaeologists do not yet know the occupant of the tomb, which covers an area of 60,000 sq m.

Some say it belongs to a Chu noble, as a large amount of treasures, particularly jade items, have been unearthed from the tomb's burial sector.

More than 1,300 jade items from the tomb were put on show in Jingzhou in September, considered the largest exhibition of jade objects in the country.

"The tomb is large in scale and well arranged. We have found 92 graves that might belong to people who were buried to accompany the owner, a custom of the State of Chu signifying loyalty even in death," Yan said.

Many scholars suspect the master of the tomb to be one of the kings in the State of Chu. In all, 11 successive kings ruled Chu.

Xu Wenwu, a professor with Changjiang University, said: "The highest probability is that the tomb belongs to King Zhao of Chu, named Xiong Zhen, who was the last king of the state."

The king's name is also linked with the name of the tomb, Xiongjiazhong, which literally means "the tomb of a family surnamed Xiong".

But Xu said his guess must be confirmed by findings from the tomb.

Sources from the Jingzhou city government said the tomb is expected to be converted into a museum, like that of the tomb of the Terracotta Warriors in the mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shihuang located near Xi'an in Shaanxi Province.

Xinhua

(China Daily 11/30/2007 page3)