Category Archives: CHINA

900 year old ‘Grand Lady’ Skeleton Emerges from Watery Coffin

900 year old ‘Grand Lady’ Skeleton Emerges from Watery Coffin

In China at Tieguai Village Archeologists have discovered the remarkably well-preserved 900-year-old remains of a woman who was called “Grand Lady” and have found that a number of various and precious important objects have been found next to her skeleton.

The Grand Lady was buried with many interesting artifacts including this model of a wooden house

Perhaps the most profound of these grave goods was what looks like a model dollhouse that was filled with miniature furniture, Fox News reported.

A silver pendant was also retrieved from the Chinese tomb, displaying two dragons chasing after pearls. The name “Grand Lady” was found written on a banner on the upper side of the inner coffin, and the banner records that the woman, believed to be née Jian, once resided in Ankang Commandery.

Archaeologists who were involved with the research on this woman explained in their paper that she was still very much intact and that “the skeleton [of the Grand Lady] is essentially preserved, complete with fingernails and hair.”

Gold and silver hairpins were still on the Grand Lady’s head after 900 years and “there were silver bracelets on her arm and a string of bronze coins on her abdomen, 83 coins altogether.”

Archaeologists noted that “underneath her right hand were two zongzi [which are the remains of two sticky rice dumplings], and embroidered shoes were on her feet.”

900-Year-Old ‘Grand Lady’ Skeleton Emerges from Watery Coffin

Archaeologists also found that there were several paintings on the inner coffin that are believed to be of the Grand Lady, with each of these showing the woman wearing different attire and accessories.

The time during which she lived has been determined by the discovery of 200 bronze coins that were found buried with her, which were in circulation between 713 and 1100 CE.

Because of this, it is believed that the woman most likely died at some point after 1100 CE. This means that she would have been alive during the Song dynasty, which was a particularly good time in China for the arts, and when science and culture were at their peak.

Also found in the Grand Lady’s coffin were curious artifacts known as minqi, which are real-life objects that are created in miniature, much like the dollhouse that was discovered.

Besides the dollhouse, archaeologists also recovered 10 female figurines that were donning masks and performing different functions, including playing music on their instruments.

While another coffin was found close to the Grand Lady’s, which may have been a relative, this was found to have been severely looted, and very few artifacts were still left inside.

Excavation of Elite’s Tomb in China Reveals Sport of Donkey Polo

Excavation of Elite’s Tomb in China Reveals Sport of Donkey Polo

Legend tells the story of loyal horses, whereas it relegates their equine cousins, the donkeys, to the role of mere pack animals. But a new analysis of bones buried with a ninth-century Chinese noblewoman may help raise the status of the lowly ass: It may have served as her steed during polo matches in the royal court.

Cui Shi’s tomb with animal bones revealing evidence of the ancient Chinese nobles playing donkey polo. Inset: A skull of one of Cui Shi’s donkeys.

Sandra Olsen, an archeologist at the Kansas University of Lawrences, a museum of natural history who was not involved with the work said, “It’s about the time that donkeys get their proper recognition. She calls the new finding of their role in ancient sports “particularly exciting.”

The bricked-in tomb of a woman named Cui Shi, who, according to official records, died at 59 years of age on 6 October 878 C.E, a team of Chinese archaeologists from the ancient capital of the Tang Dynasty, Xi’an, excavated in 2012.

Left: map of the region of China where the tomb was found in Xi’an. Right: The epitaph from the tomb, confirming it is Cui Shi’s.

Murals on her tomb walls of workers preparing a sumptuous feast suggest she was of high status. Although looters had ransacked the tomb, they left behind a bevy of animal bones, including those of at least three donkeys.

Donkeys would have been a common sight in Xi’an in the ninth century. The bustling Tang capital was the eastern terminus of the Silk Road trade route, and donkeys were frequently used as pack animals.

But humble beasts of burden aren’t usually buried alongside elite members of society, says study co-author Fiona Marshall, an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis. “Donkeys … are not associated with high-status people,” Marshall says. “They were animals used by ordinary folk.”

A donkey skull was found inside the tomb of a ninth-century noblewoman from present-day Xi’an, China.

One hint to why they were in Cui’s tomb, she says, may lie in the identity of her husband, Bao Gao. Ancient texts reveal that the polo-obsessed Emperor Xizong promoted Bao to the rank of general because of his skills on the polo fields.

Polo was wildly popular during the Tang dynasty—for both women and men—but it was also dangerous; riders thrown from their horses were frequently injured or killed. If a woman like Cui wanted to join a game, then riding a donkey—slower, steadier, and lower to the ground—might have been a safer alternative.

Polo was a popular pastime for women and men in China’s Tang dynasty, as seen by this figure of a woman playing polo on a horse.

When the researchers, led by archaeologist Songmei Hu of the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, analyzed the size of the donkey bones in Cui’s tomb, they found that they were too small to have been good pack animals.

Computerized tomography scans of the leg bones revealed patterns of stress similar to an animal that ran and turned frequently, rather than one that slowly trudged in a single direction. Taken together, the evidence suggests Cui played polo astride a donkey, the researchers report today in Antiquity. The noblewoman’s donkeys may have been ritually sacrificed when she died to allow Cui to continue to play in the afterlife.

“There’s no smoking gun … [but] there’s really no other explanation that makes sense,” Marshall says, adding that the finding suggests Tang dynasty donkeys were held in higher regard than believed.

William Taylor, an anthropologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who studies human-animal relationships, agrees the donkeys in the tomb were not simple pack animals.

But although polo-playing is one plausible explanation, he says, the biomechanical stress patterns may also match other activities, such as pulling a cart or milling grain. Still, if the researchers are right, Olsen says, “it is doubly rewarding than another underdog in ancient history, women’s sports, is also [getting credit].”

Chinese Boy Accidentally Finds 66-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Eggs

Chinese Boy Accidentally Finds 66-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Eggs

The Beijing Youth Daily revealed that a 9-year-old primary school student from Heyuan, South China’s Guangdong province, accidentally discovered what he suspected to be a dinosaur egg fossil while playing with his mom on the downtown riverbank.

Third-grade Zhang Yangzhe (pictured) made the extraordinary discovery while playing on the embankment of Dong River in Heyuan, southern China’s Guangdong Province

Later, the mom of the boy, Li Xiaofang, approached the local museum whose staff members went and dug even more dinosaur eggs around the site. The 11 dinosaur egg fossils date back to 66 million years ago. Li said later in an interview that she and her son, Zhang Yangzhe, were playing near the Dongjiang River.

“The bridge over the river has been damaged by the flood, and the soil below the abutment was exposed,” she said. This is what helped the boy to find the eggs.

The schoolboy found 11 eggs in total.

“He found an eggshell on the slope (of the broken bridge) and called me immediately to tell me about his discovery, saying it seemed like a dinosaur egg,” said Li.

She added that the boy had recently visited the local dinosaur museum where he saw various shapes of dinosaur egg fossils, some complete while others are broken, which helped him recognize the dinosaur egg at a glance.

Soon after the excavation of the first one, another was also unearthed about 80 cm above the previous spot on the slope.

Knowing their archeological values, his mother Li contacted Heyuan Dinosaur Museum via the help of a friend.

Yangzhou was accompanied by his mother (pictured with her son) while coming across the fossils. According to his mother, Li Xiaofang, Yangzhe has read many books about dinosaurs

The city, known as the “hometown of dinosaurs”, has discovered a large number of dinosaur eggs and bone fossils since 1996.

A dinosaur research institute named China’s Ancient Animal Museum and Dinosaur Egg Museum, also known as the Heyuan Dinosaur Museum, has been established in the city.

Thousands of eggs have been found in the city of Heyuan over the years.

Huang Zhiqing, deputy director of the research department of Heyuan Dinosaur Museum, said they rushed to the scene with police after receiving the news.

A total of 11 “stone eggs” each about 9 centimeters in diameter were excavated, later verified as dinosaur eggs all dating back to the late Cretaceous age, according to the local museum.

Huang Zhiqing said houses were built at the place where the dinosaur eggs were discovered, so the soil softens as time flies. Dinosaur egg fossils that remain in good condition despite water and erosion are extremely rare.

Huang Zhiqing said the museum will organize manpower to clean and repair these dinosaur egg fossils. They will also find an appropriate time to re-examine and further excavate the abutment.

“Maybe we will discover new things,” Huang Zhiqing said.

Li said the child’s recognition of the dinosaur egg is inseparable from his education.

“Maybe because of the city’s environment, he is full of curiosity about everything related to dinosaurs,” she said, adding that he goes to libraries and museums to search for information he is curious about.

298 Million Year Old Forest Found Beneath Coal Mine in China

298 Million Year Old Forest Found Beneath Coal Mine in China

A tropical forest 300 millions of years old, has been preserved in ash when a volcano exploded in the north of China today.

The reconstruction of this fossilized forest is presented through a new study by Hermann Pfefferkorn, a paleobotanist from the University of Pennsylvania, which lending insight into the ecology and climate of its time.

Pfefferkorn, a professor in Penn’s Department of Earth and Environmental Science, collaborated on the work with three Chinese colleagues: Jun Wang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Yi Zhang of Shenyang Normal University and Zhuo Feng of Yunnan University.

Their paper was published this week in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study site, located near Wuda, China, is unique as it gives a snapshot of a moment in time. Because volcanic ash covered a large expanse of forest in the course of only a few days, the plants were preserved as they fell, in many cases in the exact locations where they grew.

“It’s marvelously preserved,” Pfefferkorn said. “We can stand there and find a branch with the leaves attached, and then we find the next branch and the next branch and the next branch. And then we find the stump from the same tree. That’s really exciting.”

The researchers also found some smaller trees with leaves, branches, trunk, and cones intact, preserved in their entirety.

Due to nearby coal-mining activities unearthing large tracts of rock, the size of the researchers’ study plots is also unusual. They were able to examine a total of 1,000 m2 of the ash layer in three different sites located near one another, an area considered large enough to meaningfully characterize the local paleoecology.

The fact that the coal beds exist is a legacy of the ancient forests, which were peat-depositing tropical forests. The peat beds, pressurized over time, transformed into the coal deposits.

The scientists were able to date the ash layer to approximately 298 million years ago. That falls at the beginning of a geologic period called the Permian, during which Earth’s continental plates were still moving toward each other to form the supercontinent Pangea. North America and Europe were fused together, and China existed as two smaller continents. All overlapped the equator and thus had tropical climates.

At that time, Earth’s climate was comparable to what it is today, making it of interest to researchers like Pfefferkorn who look at ancient climate patterns to help understand contemporary climate variations.

In each of the three study sites, Pfefferkorn and collaborators counted and mapped the fossilized plants they encountered. In all, they identified six groups of trees. Tree ferns formed a lower canopy while much taller trees — Sigillaria and Cordaites — soared to 80 feet above the ground. The researchers also found nearly complete specimens of a group of trees called Noeggerathiales. These extinct spore-bearing trees, relatives of ferns, had been identified from sites in North America and Europe but appeared to be much more common in these Asian sites.

They also observed that the three sites were somewhat different from one another in plant composition. In one site, for example, Noeggerathiales were fairly uncommon, while they made up the dominant plant type in another site. The researchers worked with painter Ren Yugao to depict accurate reconstructions of all three sites.

“This is now the baseline,” Pfefferkorn said. “Any other finds, which are normally much less complete, have to be evaluated based on what we determined here.”

The findings are indeed “firsts” on many counts.

“This is the first such forest reconstruction in Asia for any time interval, it’s the first of a peat forest for this time interval and it’s the first with Noeggerathiales as a dominant group,” Pfefferkorn said.

Because the site captures just one moment in Earth’s history, Pfefferkorn noted that it alone cannot explain how climate changes affected life on Earth. But it helps provide valuable context.

“It’s like Pompeii: Pompeii gives us deep insight into Roman culture, but it doesn’t say anything about Roman history in and of itself,” Pfefferkorn said. “But on the other hand, it elucidates the time before and the time after. This finding is similar. It’s a time capsule and therefore it allows us now to interpret what happened before or after much better.”

The study was supported by the Chinese Academy of Science, the National Basic Research Program of China, the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the University of Pennsylvania.