Tombs from Spring-Autumn to Warring States Periods and Han Dynasty found in Xilimen Cemetery, Shanxi
Recently, salvage archaeological excavation of Xilimen Cemetery was carried out by Shanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology. 24 tombs were uncovered, including 16 tombs from Spring-Autumn Period to Han Dynasty. Xilimen Cemetery is located on the terrace in the west of Xilimen Village, Hexi County, Gaoping City, Shanxi province.
Tombs from Spring-Autumn Period
There were 2 tombs from Spring-autumn Period (M7, M9). Both had vertical earthen shaft pit and relatively small size. Tomb openings were slightly larger than their bottoms. Each tomb had an outer coffin and an inner coffin. Both of the deceased were lying on their back with straight limbs. Burial gifts contained daily pottery vessels, such as pottery li
-vessels with a cover, basins and cups and so on. Burial gifts discovered from M7 included a pottery li
-tripods, a pottery dou
-vessel with a cover, a pottery basin and a bone hairpin. Funeral goods from M9 had a pottery li
-tripod, a pottery basin and a pottery cup.
Tomb M7 has a rectangular plane and straight tomb walls. Tomb opening was 260cm long, 150cm wide, while the bottom was 260cm long, 150cm wide and 180cm deep from opening to bottom. Inner coffin inside M7 was rectangular in plane. Remains of outer coffin’s cover were rather well-preserved, consisting of 9 pieces of wooden boards. So was that of the inner coffin’s cover, having 3 pieces of boards which were all longitudinally placed. Inside the inner coffin, there was a well-preserved skeleton lying on its back with straight limbs, heading north and facing upward. According to the tomb structure and uncovered burial objects, M7 is predicted to date back to late phase of Spring-Autumn Period.
Tomb M2 and M6 after excavation
Tombs from Warring State Period
There were 9 tombs from Warring State Period. All of them were earthen shaft pit tombs except M22, which was a cave-burial. All the tomb openings were larger than bottoms. All the tombs had 1 outer coffin and 2 inner coffins. The deceased were all lying on their backs. Their ulnas and radius of both arms were crossed on the pelvis. Burial gifts were mainly potteries, only a few tombs had small burial objects such as bronze belt hooks, agate rings and etc. Main pottery assemblage contained 2 pottery ding
-cauldrons, 2 pottery dou
-vessels with a cover, 2 pottery pots, 1 pottery plate, 1 pottery yi-wash basin and etc.
Tomb M22 had rather special form. It consisted of two parts, a vertical pit tomb passage and a cave chamber. The tomb passage was situated in the north of the chamber and its opening was obviously larger than its bottom. All the walls were Inclined straight. There were 3 postholes being left in the entrance of the cave chamber. So it’s predicted that there were wooden posts being placed to seal the entrance of the chamber. Funeral furniture contained an outer coffin and an inner coffin. Inner coffin had a human skeleton, lying on its back with straight limbs. Burial gifts were put in the entrance of the chamber, including 2 pottery fang
-pots, 2 pottery ding
-tripods, 2 pottery he
-vessels, 2 pottery pots and 1 pottery jar. Among them, surfaces of ding-tripods, fang-pots and he-vessels bore tricolor-painted (red, white and black) cloud patterns.
Tomb M2 was an earthen shaft pit with a rectangular plane and straight walls. Its opening was the same as bottom, and 294cm long and 202-224cm wide. M2 had an inner coffin and an outer coffin. Its inner coffin was rectangular in plane. Its outer coffin was 238cm long and 136-158cm wide, while its inner coffin was 190cm long and 66cm wide. There was a human skeleton in the inner coffin, very badly preserved. The deceased was lying on its back with straight limbs, heading north. 12 burial gifts were uncovered from M2, including 1 pottery pot, 1 pottery jar, a pottery fu-cauldron, a pottery gui-vessel, 3 bronze bells, an agate ring and a set of ornaments. The badly-preserved ornaments contained copper rings, bone decorations, soapstone beads, agate rings and so on.
Tomb M17 and M21 after excavation
Tomb M22 and M24 after excavation
Han Dynasty tombs
There were 5 tombs from Han Dynasty, all of which were earthen shaft pit tombs with the exception of M24. Their openings were the same as their bottoms. Each tomb had an outer coffin and an inner coffin. The deceased were lying on their backs with straight limbs. The majority of burial gifts were pottery vessels and main assemblage contained pots and jars.
Tomb M24 was earthen shaft pit tomb with a side cave chamber on the west. Tomb passage and cave chamber were arranged side by side from east to west. Tomb passage was vertical earthen pit with a rectangular plane and cave chamber was set in the west of the passage. There was an inner coffin. Uncovered funeral goods contained 2 pottery jars, 1 set of glass ear studs (2 pieces) and 1 bronze belt hook.
Tomb M17 was an earthen shaft pit tomb with a rectangular plane and coarse walls. Tomb opening was 360cm long and 268-280cm wide, while bottom was 320cm long, 210cm wide and 275cm deep from opening to bottom. M17 had an inner coffin and an outer coffin. Inner coffin was rectangular in plane with 190cm long, 74-82cm wide and 32cm high. There was a well-preserved human skeleton inside. The dead was lying on its back with straight limbs, heading north and facing upward. There was a head box in the northern part of inner coffin. 9 pottery vessels were found in the head box, containing 6 pottery pots, 2 pottery jars and 1 pottery plate.
From this season’s excavation, we can see distribution of tombs was rather concentrated and their arrangement was regular. Besides, the cemetery had a quite long time span. Considering results of investigation of its periphery, Xilimen Cemetery is a very important cemetery in terms of its rather large area, long time span and relatively large quantity of burial objects from various periods. (Translator: Ma Huanhuan)