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6th Century Mural Tomb Discovered in China

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June 18, 2013

Archaeologists have uncovered the tomb of a Chinese military commander and his wife, who were buried nearly 1,500 years ago. The murals are particularly well preserved.

The site is in Shuozhou, about 200 miles southwest of Beijing, the capital. The man is thought to have been in charge of the city and surrounding area.

The bodies are not in the tomb, and few grave goods remain. It is the murals, however, that are the story. Showing scenes from ancient times, the murals fill the walls and even the ceiling of the tomb, with most of the scenes intact.

In the mural on one passageway wall, a guard leans on his sword, ready for trouble. On the wall opposite is an entire uniformed honor guard, including men on horseback. The paint is especially vivide despite the age of the murals. The ceiling shows how the Chinese people of the time viewed the night sky and its contents, including stars, the Sun and the Moon, and zodiac animals.

In the very center is a mural depicting a banquet, with musicians blowing horns and wind instruments.

Through a combination of examining the remaining grave goods and the style of art, archaeologists have dated the tomb to the Northern Qi Dynasty, which ruled China from A.D. 550 to 577. The commander, the archaeologists asserted, was undoubtedly possessed of great wealth, judging by the number and complexity of the murals.

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