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HomeNewsNew discoveries
2000-year-old Brick/stone outer-coffin tombs were found in Xi’an
From:Chinese Archaeology  Writer:  Date:2013-12-03
 
In May, 2013, The Archaeology and Heritage Conservation Institute of Xi’an carried out an excavation at the Wanda Square in order to coordinate with the capital construction. This excavation found 10 tombs dating to Han Dynasty, including 5 brick outer coffin tombs and 2 stone outer coffin tombs. Also, there were some precious cultural relics unearthed, including stones chime, pottery xun埙 (a kind of ancient egg-shaped musical instrument), proto porcelain, bronze pots for game, iron armour, pottery chopsticks and so on.
 
Brick outer coffin tombs have similar form and structure but do not have tomb passage. The tomb chamber is a square or rectangle earthen shaft pit and its floor was paved with bricks to form the outer coffin. The top of the outer coffin was covered with plat wooden plank or was built by stone planks into bi-side slopes, or was built into dome with bricks. Some of tombs have a small niche in one side or one end of the chamber. The grave goods were mostly placed inside the niche. Usually the lower part of the chamber is narrower than the upper part and some of chambers have second-tiered platform. Outside some outer coffins have piled sand and stone and the filled soil of the chamber was usually rammed.
 
stone chime from tomb M16
 
Tomb M16: its shaft pit was about 6.9 meters long, 5.7 meters wide and 3.16 meters deep. At its floor were two coffins placed side by side in east-west direction and they had the same size and structure. The chamber walls were built with bricks and the chamber floor was paved with two layers of bricks. There were glazed pottery pots, nose plugs, anus plugs, coins inscribed with “大泉五十” and so on unearthed from the outer coffin. There were two small niches in the south side of the chamber corresponding to the outer coffin and the niches were preserved well. In the east niche, there were pottery pots, pottery tables, pottery plates, smoked furnaces, pottery chopsticks, pottery spoons, pottery wine vessels unearthed. In the west niche, there were pottery pots, pottery tables, cups with ear, pottery chopsticks, stones chime, chariot & harnesses ornaments unearthed.
 
M18: it had brick outer coffin and was rectangular in shape. Its walls were built with bricks and the ground was paved with bricks too. The top of the walls were flat and should have wooden plank covered. Outside the brick walls was piled sand and under the floor bricks were piled sand and charcoal. Brick outer coffin is 3.26 meters long, 1.78 meters wide and 1.9 meter high. There was second-layer platform. The small niches were located in the west side and south side of the tomb pit. The south niche is a rectangular earth hole where there were disordered human bones unearthed. The arch ceiling of the west niche was built with brick. The smalls niches were preserved well and have pottery pots, iron swords, chime stones, bronze rings, chariot ornaments unearthed.
 
M22: its pit walls were straight and the top part was 5 meters long, 3.2 meters wide and 4.7 meters deep. The outer coffin was built with bricks and the arch ceiling was built with double layers of bricks. The outer coffin was 3.84 meters long, 1.68 meters wide and 1.6 meters high. The ceiling was 2.6 meters high. The tomb was robbed heavily and had over 1000 bronze coins inscribed with “小泉直一”, cross-bow trigger and pottery pots unearthed.
 
pottery xun (holed wind instrument)from tomb M23


bronze pot from tomb M23
 
M23: the top part of the pit was 3.8 meters long, 2.4 meters wide and 4.1 meters deep. The outer coffin was built with bricks and there were platforms which entered into the wall 0.12 meters in east and west walls. The top of the outer coffin was built with two stone planks into “八” shape. The floor was paved with four layers of bricks. The outer coffin was 2.7 meters long, 1.04 meters wide, and 1.28 meters deep, with artifacts including bubble nails, cross-bow trigger and so on. There were small niches with brick doors in the west side of the pit and were preserved well, and the artifacts included pottery pots, pottery jars, pottery xun (holed wind instrument), bronze pots for game, bronze rings and iron artifacts unearthed.
 
excavation of tomb M24
 
M24: its pit was 8 meters long, 6.7 meters wide and its floor was 7.1 meters long, 5.8 meters wide and 5.8 meters deep. There was second-layer platform. The outer coffin was built with bricks and the floor was pave with bricks. The outer coffin was covered with wooden plank which was 3.26 meters long, 1.78 meters wide and 1.9 meters high. The upper part of the pit was filled with rammed earth and the lower part had piled sand. The small niche was located in the west side of the pit. It was earth hole with dome ceiling and brick door. It was 2.36 meters long, 1.2 meters wide and 0.8 meters high. The small niche was preserved well and had glazed pottery pots and iron amours inside.
 
iron armour from tomb M24
 
M19 and M20 were stone outer-coffin tombs and were placed side by side in east-west direction. They had the same structure and were earthen shaft pit burial with stone outer coffin and slope passages. The stone outer coffin was made into two to four layers with pebbles and stones and small stones were filled between the big ones. These stone did not have obvious process trace and there were red inscriptions on some stones. There were wooden coffins inside the stone outer coffins.
 
M19: it was “甲” shape in plane and consisted of tomb slopes passage, chamber and small niches. The passage was trapezoid in shape and was narrow in the south and wide in the north. The bottom of the passage was slope. The stone outer coffin is 4.3 meters long, 3.4 meters wide and 3 meters deep. On some of the stones, there were red inscriptions “廿二”, “廿九” and etc. The wooden coffin was in the stone outer coffin and 3.1 meters long, 1.8 meters wide and 0.58 meters high. There was small niche in the front of the west side of the pit whose walls and dome ceiling were built with bricks. This niche was preserved well and there were proto-porcelains, crossbow trigger, bronze parts, iron amours and jade ornaments unearthed. The door was made in bricks and stone and there were ellipse pebbles paved on the floor with bricks on its top. The upper part filled earth of the pit was rammed and the lower part was with piled sand and stone.
 
proto-porcelain pots from tomb M20
 
M20: its pit partly overlaid with M19. Its remained tomb passage was 8.1 meter long, 1.2 meters wide. The top of the pit was 6.86 meters long, 3.15 meters wide and its floor was 5.85 meters long, 4.54 meter wide and 6.2 meters deep. The stone outer coffin was 3.86 meters long, 2.20 meters wide and 3 meters deep. On some of the stones had “郭”,“長” red inscriptions but the inscriptions were blurry on a few stones. There was wooden coffin inside the stone outer coffin and the wooden outer-coffin was 3.24 meters long, 1.9 meters wide and 0.14 meters high. There was lacquered inner coffin in the middle of the outer coffin and there were geometry patterns decorated on the inner coffin. On one side of the inner wall in the stone outer coffin were 5 proto-porcelain pots, 5 jars with small mouth and there were mirror brushes, bronze parts, bell-shaped coffin decorations, silver slices and shell currency inside the outer-coffin.
 
According to the characteristics of the tomb bricks and the unearthed artifacts, these tombs could be dated to the same period, which is the end of the West Han Dynasty to the XinMang Period. Except that M23 was smaller in size, the others were larger and were middle-sized with groups of chime stones, iron amours and bronze pots with equisite patterns unearthed, indicating the tomb owners had high-rank identification and social status. Based on the scale of the tombs and the unearthed artifacts, the tomb owners should be the middle to high-rank officers. The tombs with earthen shaft pit and brick outer coffin and earth chamber belonging to the middle to high-rank officers are rare in Xi’an area. 
 
In the excavated tombs, there were two tombs which respectively had a set of chime stones unearthed (15 pieces and 14 pieces). Also there were 2 pottery xun instrument unearthed, which supplied important materials for studying the music instruments and music during Han Dynasty. The parts of the iron amours unearthed from the tombs were mostly oval and were linked together with a thread or leather. In addition, there was an iron halberd unearthed which supplied materials for studying the weapons and military during Han Dynasty.
 
Nine pieces of proto-porcelains unearthed from M19 and M20 supplied new materials for exploring the source of the proto-porcelain in this area.    (Translator: Zhai Shaodong)


 
 
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