Tomb raiders at Shaanxi Province leave little for archaeologists

Tomb raiders at Shaanxi Province leave little
for archaeologists
Channel NewsAsia's China Correspondent Tan Bee Leng
15 Jun 2005
SHAANXI PROVINCE : Chinese archaeologists have said a cluster of
elaborate tombs unearthed in China's northwest Shaanxi Province
may be the most significant historical find in many years.
Unfortunately, the archaeologists were not the first to find the tombs grave robbers have left very little for historians to work with.
The 22 ancient tombs are all linked by tunnels or they have their own
funeral pit.
Chinese archaeologists said the tunnels in the tombs suggested the
cemetery was reserved for high-ranking officials from the Western
Zhou Dynasty - perhaps even their kings.
The Western Zhou Dynasty had a series of more than 10 kings, but
their tombs have so far, never been found.
And historical records and documents offer very limited information on
the history of the Western Zhou Dynasty, which lasted some 300
History experts said this was the breakthrough they had been waiting
for to unravel the mysteries of the Western Zhou Dynasty.
To protect the site, local authorities have banned any construction for
10 square kilometres around.
Wang Zhankui, Head of Archaeological Excavation Team and Deputy
Director of Shaanxi Provincial Archaeology Research Institute, said:
"Such big tombs with four linking tunnels probably means it is a tomb
of a king.
"Or maybe it could be someone of a slightly lower rank than the king,
such as "Zhou Gong" (the Premier). This is a significant discovery
because we have never found a four-tunnel tomb of the Western Zhou
Lasting from 1100 BC to 770 BC, the Western Zhou Dynasty was a
very important period in Chinese history, which laid the foundations
for China's early political, legal and military systems.
Unfortunately, archaeologists cannot be certain who occupied the
tombs in this cemetery because they have all been looted.
Wang added: "This is definitely a very sad situation, but there is
nothing we can do, we are helpless. We can only work with what is
left. The damage done over the years has been very severe."
Over the past five years, it is believed that more than 100,000 ancient
burial grounds in China have been looted by tomb raiders. - CNA/de