25 ancient tombs with encased skulls found in China’s Guizhou

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A total of 25 ancient tombs with human skulls enfolded in vessels have been discovered in a township in southwest China’s Guizhou Province.

25 ancient tombs with encased skulls found in China's Guizhou
Credit: Guizhou Provincial Research Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology

The tombs, believed to date back as early as 2,300 years, have been excavated in the Kele Yi-Miao Township of Hezhang County, with the skulls found encased in dome-shaped vessels.




Bronze drums and pots, as well as iron pots, were among the vessels containing skulls in the tombs excavated since the 1970s, Wu Xiaohua, an associate researcher from the provincial research institute of cultural relics and archaeology, said Wednesday.

25 ancient tombs with encased skulls found in China's Guizhou
Credit: Guizhou Provincial Research Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology

According to Wu, the tombs with encased skulls were used from the mid and late Warring States Period (475 BC-221 BC) to the late Western Han Dynasty (202 BC-AD 25) and were believably part of the Yelang culture. Bones of human feet were also found encased by bronze or iron pots or basins.




Yelang was an ancient ethnic minority kingdom in southwestern China in modern-day Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guizhou provinces and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

25 ancient tombs with encased skulls found in China's Guizhou
Credit: Guizhou Provincial Research Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology

The kingdom, which originated as early as the Warring States Period, prospered during the early Western Han Dynasty, but vanished mysteriously in the middle of the dynasty, leaving few records.




Some scholars said the special way of burial may have been related to people’s worship of nature, soul, or vessels, and some others said it manifests the special ethnic identities of the tomb owners. The burial method may also be related to their religious belief that emphasized protecting their heads.

Wu said discoveries of the tombs are of significant value for the study of Yelang culture. 

Source: Xinhua News Agency [January 12, 2021]

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