Ancient Child Tombs Discovered In China

On October 2017, hundred of tombs dating back more than 2,000 years have been discovered in northern China's Hebei Province which puzzled the archaeologists and historians. Because nearly all of the tombs (except six) were found to contain the remains of children between the ages of two and three years old. And archeologists estimate there might be 500 to 700 more such tombs in the surrounding area. The tombs contain mostly urn-type burials, a method of interring the dead inside man-sized earthenware pots. The graveyard located near the Fudi city ruins in Huanghua, Hebei, is dated between the Warring States (475-221 B.C.) period and the reign of Emperor Wu (156-87 B.C.) in the Han Dynasty.

Zhang Baogang, curator of the Huanghua city museum, said the tombs were all of the urn burial type, featuring urns made of pottery. It is the largest such burial site ever found in China.

"The earthen coffins were buried 3 meters underground. Most of the skulls were well preserved because the squashed earthenware helped squeeze out oxygen," Zhang said. He said archeologists had collected samples of the remains for lab research to determine the gender and age of the people buried. They will also carry out tests on DNA and the children's teeth.

Zhang said archeologists were curious why there were so many children buried together. Many were only two to three years old, with others just a few years older. Skull and foot bones were separately arranged in two small pots, with the main body sections put in larger drum-like pots.

Zhang said there were composites of sea shell found in the clay earthenware. Huanghua is located on the west coast of the Bohai Sea. People accordingly used local materials for making the urns. He said there were no other burial objects found in the tombs except some silk which decayed quickly after the tombs were opened. The earthenware also decayed with the red ones decaying faster than the black ones. Adults were only found in six of the tombs.

Li Jun, an archeologist from Shanxi University, said such a large child burial suggested the children were concentrated for a specific purpose. He gave three possible reasons for the child deaths -- sacrifice, pandemic plague or exhaustion from hard work.


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