Forum for new archaeological discoveries at the Luoyang Mangshan Mountain tomb group held in Luoyang
The “forum for new archaeological discoveries at the Luoyang Mangshan Mountain tomb group” organised by the Hunan Bureau of Cultural Relics and Luoyang Municipal Bureau of Cultural Relics, was convened on May 16th. More than 20 scholars from the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, the Chinese Academy of Social Science's Institute of Archaeology, Beijing University, the National Museum, the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology and Cultural Relics, the Henan Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute, and the Historical Association of the Wei-Jin and Southern and Northern Dynasties of China confirmed the important archaeological discoveries at the Mangshan Mountain tomb group. These discoveries include four architectural remains of Eastern Han imperial mausoleums, four large-scale tomb gardens, three large graves from the Eastern Han and a large tomb of a noble from the Cao Wei Kingdom atop Mangshan Mountain that were recognised as finds of great importance with significant academic value. The experts further identified the Cao Wei nobleman's tomb as that of Cao Xi, the renowned general of the Three Kingdoms era and member of the Cao clan.
According to Luoyang's second cultural heritage team, the find came under the scope of the expressway reconstruction and extension project. The route of the extension passes through the Mangshan Mountain tomb group, a cultural and historic site under state protection, and traverses the remains of four imperial mausoleum tomb gardens, four tomb garden remains, two accompanying burial tomb groupings and a central tomb area.
In February 2009, prospecting and excavation work began, and up until April this year, there have been many important discoveries. The most important of which are the remains of the Eastern Han imperial mausoleum park at the Zhucang site. The Zhucang site contains remains of the mausoleum parks for Emperor Shun of Han and Emperor Chong of Han, and two imperial mausoleum accompanying burial tomb gardens. The excavations first uncovered the remains of the “Sleeping Palace” and the “Resting Palace” in the mausoleum park, as well as the remains of a closed courtyard style tomb garden. The layout and structure is clear and the remains are well preserved, which is extremely rare.
It is reported that this is the first such large-scale excavation of an Eastern Han imperial mausoleum. At the discussion forum, specialists were unanimous in noting that the remains of four imperial mausoleum tomb gardens and the other four tomb gardens uncovered by the Expressway extension project are unprecedented finds of great importance. They will contribute to comprehensive research into the mausoleum parks from all periods on Mangshan Mountain, the cultural features of mausoleums, tomb construction, and the dating of such areas. They will also contribute to the archaeological research into the tomb systems and burial practices of the Eastern Han to Northern Wei dynasties, as well as further promoting preservation work for the Mangshan Mountain tomb group.
Because of the tight schedule of the expressway reconstruction and extension project, and the limited excavation area, the nature of a few of the remains has yet to become clear. Experts recommend that the discovery of the remains of this Eastern Han imperial mausoleum park should be used to draw up a long term excavation plan, to complete excavation work on the mausoleum remains and get a clear idea of its layout, answering the questions about the structure of Eastern Han mausoleums that are waiting to be answered. This is a turning point in the research into burial practices at the Mangshan Mountain tomb group, making the site more than just an archaeological find.
The discovery of the large tomb of a noble from the Cao Wei period was another hot topic at the forum. During the archaeological drilling in April 2009 by the Expressway extension project, archaeologists discovered a large-scale tomb to the West of the Zhucang Eastern Han imperial mausoleum park, and to the South of the Expressway. This is a multi-chamber brick tomb with a long, sloping front passage. The tomb is composed of a tomb passage, a vaulted passage (paved path leading to the main hall), a side chamber, a front chamber, a back chamber, a north side-chamber and two southern side-chambers. Excavations revealed that the tomb passage has been opened on several previous occasions, indicating a joint burial. The bricks used in construction can be divided between lath bricks and wedge bricks.
The largest tomb brick is 46 cm long, 10 cm thick and weighs 50 kg, revealing the high-level of the tomb. The Chinese characters for 'left', 'right', 'the first', 'the second' and 'the third' have been found in vermillion lettering on the wedge bricks, in order, indicating that they have been prefabricated. Prod marks have been discovered on some bricks. Unearthed artefacts have been mainly pottery, bronzeware, ironware as well as gold and silver tools. An exquisite gilded bronze belt hook was discovered in the front chamber. Scattered human bones were discovered in the front chamber and side chambers, and have been recognised as the bones of two people, one male and one female. The male was over fifty years of age, 171 cm tall, the female around 40 years old. The tomb is identified as a joint burial site of three individuals.
Of special importance is the copper seal discovered in the tomb's rear chamber, around 2cm along the side, with Cao Xiu printed in seal script, conclusive evidence of the identity of the tomb owner.
Experts note that tombs from the Cao Wei period are very rarely discovered, and Cao Xiu's tomb is the first discovery of a Cao Wei noble's tomb with explicit evidence of the era or the tomb owner's identity. Thus the tomb has become representative of the Cao Wei era. The discovery of the tomb of Cao Cao in Xigaoxue, Anyang reflects burial practices at the end of the Eastern Han, and Cao Xiu's reflects the early Cao Wei period. This find is of great importance, as from the tomb structure and excavated funerary objects we can learn about the development of tombs throughout the Eastern Han and Cao Wei periods, and it corroborates with texts such as the Records of the Three Kingdoms. Also, as Cao Xiu's tomb is located in an Eastern Han mausoleum area, it provides clues to the distribution areas of Eastern Han and Cao Wei tombs. (Translated by Duncan Poupard)