Archaeologists have painstakingly uncovered the almost 3,000-year-old remains of horses and wooden chariots in a Zhou Dynasty tomb in Luoyang, Henan Province, China.
The completed excavation unearthed four horse-and-chariot pits, dating back as far as 770BC.
Watering the horses: A staff member sprays water to maintain the humidity of one of the horse and chariot pits unearthed in Luoyang, China. The main pit has five chariots and 12 horses buried almost 3,000 years ago
Astonishing find: Archaeologists say this is the most complete find of any tomb of its era. The wooden chariots have completely rotted away, with only the ash residue remaining
Funeral procession: The main pit contains five chariots and 12 horses. Archaeologists say that the animals were not entombed alive
The pits have well-preserved evidence of bronzeware and ceramics from the Early Western Zhou dynasty.
Though a far smaller tomb than the famous ‘terracotta army’ found in 1974 in the Lintong District, this find has been undisturbed while buried and has not suffered the ravages of grave robbers.
Archaeologists believe that the tomb belongs to an official of some renown during the dynasty – pottery, metal weaponry and inscriptions are consistent with a man of mid-level importance.
Apart from the artifacts themselves, the tomb is an exciting discovery for historians, as it provides unquestionable insights into funeral customs in the early Western Zhou dynasty.
The unearthed tomb is a vertical earthen pit tomb, which is very common in that period.
Because of the age of the site, the traditionally wooden coffin and body within have long-since carbonised.
But the most valuable discovery by far is the complete set of chariots and horses, of all shapes and sizes.
Animal lovers can breathe a small sigh of relief – archaeologists say the position of the horses, lying on their sides, show that the animals were slaughtered before burial, and not entombed alive.
At the time of this official”s death, large-scale irrigation projects were being instituted across China, and the nation’s writing system was being further developed.
It was also the time of the great Chinese philosophers of antiquity, including Confucius, Mencius, and Zhuangzi.
Many nearby tombs have fragments similar to the Luoyang find, but most have been emptied of their funeral relics by thieves.
Intact: While other tombs in the region have been stripped of their contents, the Luoyang tomb includes pottery, copper weaponry, jade and other objects
Historical riches: Apart from the physical objects uncovered in the tomb, historians now have a richer understanding of funeral rites and customs of the Zhou dynasty