A significant archaeological discovery has been made in Xianyang, located in Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, where a large-scale cemetery containing more than 200 tombs has been unearthed. This remarkable find has been identified as a burial site predominantly from the Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC), providing invaluable insights into the funerary practices and cultural continuity of ancient China.
The excavation, conducted in Jiantan village of Xianyang, revealed a total of 237 ancient tombs. These tombs span a broad historical timeline, ranging from the late Warring States Period (475BC-221BC) to the Qin era. The design and layout of the tombs led archaeologists to determine that the area served as a public cemetery.
In addition to the numerous Qin tombs, 26 other tombs from various historical periods were discovered, including the Han (206BC-AD220), Tang (618-907), Northern Song (960-1127), and Ming (1368-1644) dynasties. Furthermore, seven tombs were attributed to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), China’s last imperial dynasty. This wide-ranging temporal spread of burials highlights the area’s long-standing significance as a recognized burial site throughout Chinese history.
The discovery provides a window into the enduring nature of Chinese burial traditions. The Qin tombs, particularly those in the eastern and western parts of the site, displayed remarkable similarities in their configuration and the types of burial objects found within them. This consistency suggests the implementation of a structured planning system for burials by the ancient Chinese, reflecting deep-rooted beliefs and customs regarding the treatment of the deceased.
A rich array of 878 cultural relics were also recovered from the site. The funerary objects, mainly composed of clay, copper, and iron artifacts, were items commonly used in everyday life in ancient times. Their practical nature reinforces the interpretation of the site as a public cemetery predominantly for common people. However, the discovery of more ornate objects, such as a copper mirror, a jade seal, and 10 glazed pottery sheep sculptures intricately engraved with patterns reminiscent of Chinese silk brocades, suggests a diverse representation of social statuses within the cemetery.
This site stands as a testament to the evolution of Chinese burial customs, encapsulating a blend of various traditions. The exquisite craftsmanship of some objects, rare for their time, offers a glimpse into the tastes and lifestyles of ordinary people from different historical eras.
This 2023 discovery follows previous findings in the nearby Ta’er Po area, where another 805 tombs were found in 1995 and 2022. These tombs, mostly dating back to the late Warring States and Qin periods, further corroborate the significance of the eastern suburb of Xianyang city as an ancient burial ground. By comparing the tombs from these various excavations, researchers can gain a more nuanced understanding of the chronological development and cultural nuances of the region’s funerary practices.
The cumulative discoveries in Xianyang not only enrich our understanding of ancient Chinese history and culture but also open new avenues for exploring the social dynamics and artistic expressions of China’s past civilizations.