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Major archeological musical finds near Nanchang  (cont'd)


Excavations at Guanxi village started five years ago, in 2011. They brought to the light a trapezoid-shaped burial field of 40,000 square meters, with graves of both noblemen and commoners. It is by far China's best preserved, most comprehensive and most clearly structured grave site from the Western Han, and also the biggest in size, surrounded by a wall that is still relatively intact (with 868 meters of the wall still standing). The Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology of Jiangxi Province issued a preliminary report on their research last month. They are expected to follow this up with a press conference by 25 December to report on the latest discoveries. Team leaders Yang Jun, Zhang Zhongli (of the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology) and their colleagues hope to present cultural relics from the main tomb on that occasion.


The burial site, known as the Hai Hun Hou (海昏侯) tombs, lies at the heart of a wider area of 3.6 square kilometers, which once harboured an ancient city of which remains have also survived. Some excavation work has been carried out in this wider area, but the most spectacular finds stem from the cemetery itself, notably its ancestor worship site and chariot pit, which is 18 m long, 4 m wide and 2.5 m deep.


Main tomb excavation work is currently being undertaken and will hopefully help to determine the identity of the owner. The bronze bells found at the cemetery were originally suspended in a three-tier structure, which may indicate that the main tomb once belonged to a king or other ruler of high stature. Thieves will have made repeated attempts to open the huge and extremely heavy main coffin, but the tomb was filled for centuries up to its vaults with water, making it very difficult for intruders to get to it. The water probably also protected the cultural relics inside from corrosion, as it did in other ancient graves such as that of the famous Zeng Hou Yi in Hubei. This is not to say that the main tomb of Hai Hun Hou must have survived entirely intact. Several large earthquakes were reported in the history of Jiangxi, and due to the impact of the water, wall parts of the central chamber have collapsed.


There is considerable excitement over the find of thousands of bamboo strips, which may open up new chapters in Western Han history. But the strips were found as one package, in rotting condition, attached to the soil and amidst layers of debris, including numerous scraps of jade (some of which also contain graphs and writing). Deciphering all this material and making sense of it will be a formidable challenge and a time-consuming task.


For more on the excavations, you can check (site in Chinese):


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