A blue monster, a winged horse and an almost nude deity – while these may seem tropes from a surreal fantasy film, the trio does pertain to some of the painted images discovered by archaeologists inside a 1,400-year-old ancient tomb in China. Originally excavated by researchers from the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology in 2013 and 2014, within the confines of present-day Xinzhou city, the tomb was found to be looted. However on further analysis, the experts have established the presence of few sections within the structure complex, along with discovering a host of artifacts and well preserved murals.
And among these murals, the aforementioned paintings have baffled the archaeologists. For example, the researchers are still not sure why the ‘master of the wind’ deity is almost depicted in the nude, while the mural represents the figure vigorously approaching the burial chamber. Even more intriguing is the visual presence of a vibrantly blue monster-like creature with its human-like torso. Now taking the archaeological route, the researchers have confirmed (in the Chinese Archaeology journal) that many of these motifs are unique to the tomb in question, and hence have no parallel in other tombs from the same period. Furthermore, it should also be noted that the deceased occupants of the tombs are missing (though it possibly belonged to a military commander).
Of course, such fantastical depictions are also accompanied by paintings of general ‘mundane’ situations, ranging from horse trading, hunting to laboring in a gatehouse. According to the archaeologists –
Themes on ascending to heaven, horse trading, hunting, [a] grand gatehouse and the rich styles of costumes all provide valuable information for the [research] on the social life, history, culture and military practices.
Interestingly enough, China does have its fair share of mysterious tombs from the ancient to late antiquity period. One pertinent example would relate to the 1,500-year-old cemetery in Inner Mongolia (along the renowned Silk Route) that housed an ornate silver bowl with engravings of Greek god, accompanied by ‘bejeweled’ silk-wrapped body. That particular discovery alluded to the trading and cultural influence that ancient societies and factions had over the extensive Eurasian landmass.
Reverting to the fascinating discovery in question here, archaeologists and law-makers in China are already collaborating to mitigate the unfortunate occurrences of tomb looting. To that end, one particular operation in 2015 yielded the recovery of a whopping 1,100 artifacts, which led to the arrest of over 170 people involved in the antiquities racket.
The study was originally published in the journal Kaogu (in Chinese) and then translated into English in the Chinese Archaeology journal.
Via: LiveScience / All Images Credit:Chinese Archaeology.