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Chinese researchers found 1700 year old Silk Road Cemetery with ancient carvings of mythical creatures


A team of researchers from the Xinjiang Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology in China have unearthed a buried cemetery that is adjudged to be 1,700 years old along the ancient Silk Road connecting China to the Roman Empire.

Located in the city of Kucha in present-day northwestern China, the buried cemetery contained about 10 tombs, with seven of them noted to be made of massive brick structures – these were believed to have been constructed for notable people of rank of those times. One of the tombs holds some sort of fascination for archeologists, and this was termed “M3”, and it has a rich display of ancient carvings of mythical creatures that represented seasons and times.

One of the carvings represented the White Tiger of the West, the second the Vermilion Bird of the South, the third the Black Turtle of the North, and the fourth held the mystery of the Azure Dragon of the East. Aside these representations of mythical totems, the researchers reported in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics that the tomb dubbed M3 also “consists of a burial mound, ramp, sealed gate, tomb entrance, screen walls, passage, burial chamber and side chamber.”

Although the skeletal remains of the former tomb occupants could be seen, dating the exact time of their death or identifying their persons is something of a herculean task…almost impossible. But led by Zhiyong Yu, the director of the Xinjiang Archaeological Institute, the researchers found that some of the tombs were re-used for repeated burial needs – and that some of them contained over 10 occupants.


And due to the fact that the cemetery had been robbed in the past, no preserved document or parchment was found to indicate who the buried remains were or their former status in life.

In trying to provide insights into the geographical location and economic importance of Kucha in those ancient times, the researchers reported that “In ancient times, Kucha was called Qiuci in Chinese literature. It was a powerful city-state in the oasis of the Western Frontiers.”

They added that “the conquest and effective governance of Kucha would enable them to control all the oasis city-states in the Western Frontiers,” and for the ancient dynasties that ruled the region some 1,700 years ago, the saying that “if you have Kucha, only one percent of the states in the Western Frontiers remain un-submissive” remains true till today.

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