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Legacies longer than lifetimes

Excavations of an ancient cemetery in Shaanxi are uncovering stories about its elite occupants, Wang Ru reports.

By Wang Ru | China Daily | Updated: 2024-01-15 11:08
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A clay artifact of a soldier riding a horse unearthed from Beichengcun cemetery site in the Xixian New Area, Shaanxi province.[Photo provided to China Daily]

People perish but can still tell so many stories long after.

Since the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), the Hongdu Plateau in the north of what is now Xianyang, Shaanxi province, was a popular final resting place for those of high social status.

As a result, archaeologists have discovered a large number of prominent figures' tombs there, including nine emperors' and their family members' mausoleums dating to the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24).

Now, in the central area of the plateau, a new discovery has unveiled the largest independent cemetery consisting of tombs ranging from the Sixteen Kingdoms period (304-439) to the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

The latest discoveries at the Beichengcun (Beicheng village) cemetery site in Shaanxi's Xixian New Area, near the provincial capital Xi'an, were recently announced by the National Cultural Heritage Administration in Beijing.

The archaeological excavations from 2021 to 2023 were carried out by the Xi'an Municipal Institute of Cultural Relics Conservation and Archaeology.

Archaeologists have uncovered a moat surrounding the cemetery, identified 301 tombs and excavated 285.

According to Chai Yi, a researcher at the institute, they have basically determined the more than 80,000-square-meter graveyard's scope and layout.

The moat is 350 meters long and 260 meters wide, and dates back to the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534).

The tombs are well-organized in rows from west to east, with their passages facing eastward, says Chai.

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