From August to November, 2015, Institute of Archaeology and Culture Relics of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and other institutions conducted an exploration and excavation to the tomb groups in Naobaowan. The tomb groups were located at the northeast margin of Kubuqi Desert, with an area of about 2000 square meters, excavating 7 brick-chambered tombs of Tang dynasty, unearthing 38 pieces (sets) of cultural relics.
The aerial photo of excavation area
Those seven tombs were all brick single-chambered tombs with slope passage and vaulted passage, facing to the south. The smallest tomb in scale, M3, was 5.05 meters’ long; while the largest, was 8.3 meters’ long. The plan of the tomb passages of most tombs were in the shape of trapezoid, whose northern edge was wider than the southern one, and some of the passages that had wide opening but narrow bottom, with a slope shaped bottom, about 4-5 meters in length. The vaulted passage was narrow, with an arch top, and bricks blocked off the entrance and inside of the passage.
The chamber of tomb M6
The chamber of tomb M5
The chamber of tomb M4
The shape of the tombs was divided into two types, one was square-chambered tomb, in total of five (M1, M4, M5, M6, M7); the other was boat shaped tomb, in a total of two (M2, M3). The characteristics of the square-chambered tomb was that the middle of the walls bulged outward, paved with the style of “Flemish garden wall bond” (The form of garden-wall bond in which one header and three stretchers are laid in each course using single-layer bricks; and the top of the chamber was dome with four edges arched inwards, paved with bricks to cover the staggered joints each other. The boat shaped tombs resembled overturn ships, and walls had three layers of bricks, including two layers of stretchers at the bottom and one layer of header at the top, and more stretchers were used to cover the stagger joint on the top of the header, in a shape of triangle on the top. The floor of the chamber was paved with black bricks, and at the northern of the chamber of the square tomb, burial bed made of bricks was found above the ground level.
Apart from double joint burial (M4, M6, M7); triple joint burial (M5), the rest were single burial. Unfortunately, all the burials were robbed, archaeologists could not tell the burial style because the human bones inside the chambers were scattered. Unearthed grave goods included pottery pot, potter bowl, iron scissors, bone hairpin, epitaph, clamshell, fragment of lacquer, etc. The epitaphs were unearthed in all square-chambered tombs.
The epitaph unearthed from tomb M4
The covers of the epitaphs in M1 and M5 were in Lu top (flat roof of four-slope style), with black pained after the surface was smoothed. Those in M4 and M7 were two square bricks fastened together; while no epitaph cover were found in the chamber of M6 and the passage of M7. Apart from the epitaph in M6, which was inscribed from the right to the left, the rest were written in ink regular script from the right to the left.
According to the epitaphs, those tombs belong to a family cemetery of Chen family in Yulin, Sheng zhou, of Tang dynasty, buried in Kaiyuan age of Tang dynasty.
Also due to the epitaphs, we could know that the tombs in the south were earlier than the northern ones, while the western ones were earlier than the eastern ones.
The excavation reveled abundant information, providing important materials for studying the distribution of Chen family in Yingchuan and the Xue family in Hedong; meanwhile, studying the historical development, ethnic composition around the area and the burial customs and forms of Yulin, Shengzhou, in Tang dynasty. （Translator: Wang Jue）