Treasure unearthed in 2,500-yr-old tomb

Chinese archaeologists excavating a 2,500year-old tomb in east China's Jiangxi province have discovered a well-preserved body, many pieces of bronze, gold, silver items and porcelain and jade from one of the 47 coffins discovered.

The tomb, in Lijia village in Jing'an county, is 16 metres long, about 11.5 metres wide and three metres deep. It is believed to date back to the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-221 BC).

It is the largest group of coffins ever discovered in a single tomb and the excavation has been dubbed "the most important archeology project of the year" by cultural experts and media.

Nine coffins were opened by archaeologists earlier because they were rotten and partly destroyed by tomb robbers.

Archaeologists opened another coffin today and found a relatively complete human skeleton, bodily tissue, as well as many bronze, gold and silver items including porcelain and jade.

"This is the first time that such a complete bone structure was found in southern China and it will fill in gaps in the study of human bone structure in the pre-Qin era (770-221 BC)," said Zhu Hong, a palaeoanthropological expert from Jilin University. Zhu said the unique burial style could be one reason why the skeleton was preserved so well in an area where the soil was acidic and unfavorable for preservation of human body.

The coffins were made from halved nanmu, a rare and extremely durable wood, and covered in a layer of loess.

They were fire-heated to make them solid, pressurized and waterproof, Xinhua news agency reported.

Archaeologists are to open more coffins in the next few days and more skeletons are expected to be found. The coffins, 2.5 to 2.8 metres long and 0.5 metres wide, were laid side by side in an orderly fashion. A group has arrived at the site for a joint research project.

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