Archaeologists discovered more than 20 ancient tombs with stone coffins dating back nearly 2,800 years ago in southwestern China's Sichuan province, local government announced Tuesday.
The discovery of stone coffins, first of its kind found in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garze, a major Tibetan habitat in west Sichuan since ancient times, proved other ethnic groups also lived in the area before as Tibetan seldom use stone coffins for burial, said Chen Zujun, an expert from the provincial archaeological research institute.
Traditionally, Tibetan choose water burial, inhumation, cremation, or sky burial and the coffins they used are usually made of wood instead of stone," said Chen.
In addition, Tibetan in Garze usually use a special rope made of cowhide to bind the bodies into the shape of a fetus and seal the body's eyes, nose, and mouth with butter, said Chen.
"The bodies we found this time lying on their back or stomach in the coffins," said Chen.
The coffins were about 1.8 meters long and one to 1.5 meters wide and the coffin cover is made up of three to five pieces of stone slate.
"They are quite similar to the stone coffins of the ancient Qiang people, a nomadic tribe used to live in the current northwestern part of
China more than 3,000 years ago, which were also found the valleys of the Yalong River, Minjiang River and Jinsha River in Sichuan," said Chen.
"The coffin owners may be from a branch of the tribe, which moved from the north," he said, adding they also found 140 articles of cultural relics, including stoneware, bronze wares and potteries, which proved the tombs made up a cemetery of a tribe relying on handicraft industry.
The tombs were found at the Xiangcheng County by local farmers when building houses early this month, according to the prefecture cultural administration of Garze, which said the county government has put the tombs into its cultural relics protection list and has taken special measures to protect the tombs.