Confirmation of legendary Cao Cao tomb amid controversy

19:37, January 13, 2010      

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by Xinhua writers Yang Dingdu, Gui Juan

The ancient tomb unearthed in central China's Henan Province last month is the burial place of the legendary General Cao Cao (155-220 A.D.), the top archaeologist of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) confirmed Wednesday.

"The discovery of Cao Cao's tomb was one of China's greatest archaeological achievements in 2009," Wang Wei, head of the CASS Institute of Archaeology, told a national archaeology conference in Beijing.

The occupancy of the tomb was proven by its style, size, level, age and relics, especially inscribed objects. It was an established system adopted to identify many other ancient tombs in China, Wang said.

The relics used as evidence were directly unearthed from the tomb. Other objects retrieved from grave robbers were only taken into consideration as references.

Inscriptions on the eight tablets in the tomb describing weapons often used by the "Wu King of Wei" were unquestionably solid evidence, said Wang.

"This title of Cao Cao was used only for one year, enabling us to precisely nail down the tomb's age. Also the size, location, level and style of the tomb are all in line with historical recordings of Cao Cao's tomb," he said.

More details of the excavation and how the tomb was proved to be Cao Cao's would be released Thursday morning at a forum hosted by the Archaeology Institute of the CASS, Wang said.

The announcement of the discovery on Dec. 27 triggered skepticism from around the country with scholars and Internet commentators questioning its authenticity.

"The tomb had been raided long before the excavation. It is possible that the evidence was planted. Also there are reports saying that the tablets were retrieved from robbers," said Ma Weidu, a renowned relics collector.

Internet postings speculated that money was behind the excavation. A popular opinion on the Internet is that the tomb could bring 400 million yuan in revenue to the local government.

"It is true that the local government is planning to develop areas around the tomb. But development is only for the purpose of protection by raising funds and attention," said CASS archaeologist Liu Qingzhu.

Cao Cao (155-220 A.D.), who built the strongest and most prosperous state during the Three Kingdoms period (208-280 A.D.), is remembered for his outstanding military and political talents.

Cao Cao is also known for his poems that reflected his strong character. Some of the poems are included in Chinese middle school textbooks.

Three ancient corpses, a man and two women, were found in the two-chamber tomb in Xigaoxue village of Anyang. The man was found to have died in his sixties, which coincided with the age of Cao Cao when he died.

More than 250 items, made of gold, silver, ceramic and other materials, were unearthed from the 740-square-meter tomb, a size appropriate for a king.

Among the items, archaeologists found 59 engraved stone tablet slogging the name and quantity of the articles buried in the tomb. Seven of the tablets logged weapons "often used by the Wu King of Wei," or Cao Cao. A similar tablet was retrieved from tomb raiders.

Also unearthed were a large number of paintings on stone plates.

The tomb had been raided several times before archaeologists started to excavate it in December 2008.

Source: Xinhua
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