In May of 2016, teams from the Shanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology carried out the first full excavation of the southwest region of the Nanqin cemetery, including two large tombs and the surrounding archaeological deposits. The excavated area was approximately 400 square meters. The Nanqin Cemetery, is a part of Nanqin archaeological site, and is located on a terrace in Guangshengsi Town, Hongdong County, Shanxi Province.
Distribution of the tomb
A total of nine tombs and four ash pits from various time periods were excavated. Preliminary results indicate that two of the tombs date to the Spring and Autumn Period, three date to the Warring States and Qin Periods, and four date to the Qing Period. As a result of this excavation, over two hundred grave goods of various categories were recovered. The two Spring and Autumn period tombs, M4 and M6, had not been looted, and their well preservation makes them the most important discoveries from this excavation.
Tomb M4 includes one inner coffin, one outer coffin, and a secondary platform. The outer coffin is 3.8 meters long, 2.3 meters wide and 0.9 meters tall. It has a cover made up of 14 boards, and the interior surfaces are lacquered with a layer of vermillion paint. The inner coffin was 2 meters long, 0.7 meters wide, and of an unknown height. The cover is comprised of three joined rectangular boards that are somewhat irregularly shaped.
One set of human remains were found in M4, though preservation was so poor that only a few teeth could be recovered. The individual was buried supine with straight legs, with their head to the east, and their face pointing south. Their right arm was extended straight and laid over the pelvis, and their left arm was bent to rest on their abdomen. Though no ornaments were found, one set of faunal remains was recovered from the right side of the skull.
Funerary objects including ceramics, bronze, gold, lacquer, stone, and bone tools were found, but no jades were recovered. All of the grave goods were found between M4’s inner coffin and outer coffin. Ceramics recovered include two hu pots with high necks and folded shoulders, and one small jar with wide flared mouth. The bronzes included vessels and fittings for chariots and harnesses, and were found in the southeast corner between the inner and outer coffin. Two of these bronze vessels are ding tripod with lids, two are dou vessels with lids, one is a zhou vessel, one is a plate, and one is a yi basin. Underneath the plate were found two chariot Wei axel fittings. Underneath the zhou vessel was a piece of gold leaf. The lacquer ware recovered was found next to the east side of the ding tripod. A bone tube had been placed on the east side of M4’s outer coffin cover, and stone tablets were also recovered. To the west of these stone tablets were the remains of a sacrificial animal, likely those of a dog.
Bronze ware unearthed from in tomb M4
Tomb M6 includes one outer coffin and two inner coffins oriented east-west. The outer coffin is 4.5 meters long, 2.8 meters wide and 0.9 meters tall. The outermost inner coffin was slightly south of the center of the outer coffin chamber, and the innermost inner coffin was in the center of the outermost inner coffin. Both inner coffins were severely decayed and much of their structure remains unclear, but from what could be seen, the outermost inner coffin was 2.35 meters long, and 1.10 meters wide. The innermost inner coffin was 1.90 meters long and 0.65 meters wide. The heights of both are unknown. The interiors of both of the inner coffins were lacquered in black and red. The human remains in M6 were also poorly preserved, but it was apparent that the individual was buried supine with straight limbs, head to the east, face pointed to the top, and hands overlapping each other on the abdomen.
One hundred and fifty grave goods of ceramic, bronze, gold and jade were excavated from M6. Of these, 21 are bronze vessels. Four are lidded ding tripods, 5 are ding tripods with no lids, 4 are dou
vessels, 1 is a square hu pot, 2 are dui
vessels, 2 are jian
vessels, 2 are li tripods, 1 is a zhou vessel, 1 is a pan dish, 1 is a yi vessel with a spout, 1 is a yan
vessel, and 1 is a fu
vessel. Bronze weapons were also found include a dagger-axe, a sword, and an arrowhead. M6 also contained chariot fittings like axile components, bells, and horse bits. A bronze chisel and bronze adze-like tool were found, as well as lacquer ware, gold ornaments, stone tablets, jade tablets, jade ornaments, and all sorts of strung shell ornaments. Nine bronze bells and 10 stone chimes were also found. The six ceramic vessels recovered are 1 li
pot and 5 jars.
The chamber of tomb M6
The bronze vessels were all placed between the outermost inner coffin and the outer coffin in the eastern part. The musical instruments were placed between the inner and outer coffins in the north slightly towards the west. The weapons and chariot fittings were all found between the inner and outer coffins on the west and southeast sides. The ceramics were in between the inner and outer coffins in the middle of the south side, and the jades were recovered near the head and feet of the skeleton.
A set of bronze bell （Bianzhong）discovered in tomb M6
Based on the shape of the tomb and the kinds of grave goods found within, it can be inferred that tomb M6 dates to slightly later than the middle Spring and Autumn Period, while M4 is from the late Spring and Autumn Period. The tombs’ principle dead were likely members of the noble class or high-ranking officials. It is probable that these burials represent a joint interment of a husband and wife, but with two separate graves. Because Nanqin Village is located on the border of Hongdong County and the Zhao City (City of Zhao state), this cemetery may be related to the Zhao State. The Nanqin Cemetery reflects different periods of time, different populations, and the living conditions of people from different social strata in the region. It is a large cemetery that not only spans a long period of time, but is rich in content, and relatively well-preserved. It provides new data to aid in the study of burial systems, ethnic groups, and social life during many different time periods in southern Shanxi. (Translator: Lauren Ledin)