Chinese archaeologists have discovered a tomb where an ancient warlord may have once rested, as well as a collection of artifacts dating back more than 2,500 years.
The tomb was found near a tourist resort in Yishui county in east China's Shandong province in January. Several bronze weapons, musical utensils, pieces of jade jewelry and ritual utensils have been unearthed from the site since then.
Judging from the size of the tomb and the scale and type of artifacts it contained, it may have contained the body of a dignitary who lived about 2,600 years ago during the Eastern Zhou Period (770 - 256 BC), said Hao Daohua, a researcher from the Shandong Archaeology Research Institute and leader of the excavation project.
The Eastern Zhou Period was a chaotic time in Chinese history, marked by wars between the small kingdoms that occupied several areas in east and central China.
Hao said the archaeologists have been puzzled at the fact that they have been unable to find the remains of the tomb's owner, despite months of digging in the tomb.
"We need to do more research to determine whether the owner of the tomb was a man or a woman," Hao said. "It could be a warlord or his concubine. The person was a dignitary, that much is certain."
He said experts with the State Heritage Bureau have been summoned to help solve the mystery, adding that the excavation team has thus far relied on inscriptions on bronze pots to derive the identity of the missing owner.
The tomb is situated at the top of a steep hill, an unusual burial site in comparison to the mountains where ancient aristocrats were usually buried. However, its unique location has also helped it avoid the reach of tomb raiders over the years, the archaeologists said.
Authorities on Monday ordered the site to be sealed off for protection.
"In many aspects, this tomb is quite different. Unveiling these mysteries will help us understand more about the lives of ancient warlords," said Sun Shiqin, deputy chief of the Shandong provincial cultural relics bureau.