Number 5 of China's Top 10 Archaeological Discoveries 2013
From July 2012 to August 2013, salvage archaeology was carried out at the Laoguanshan cemetery in Tianhui Town, Chengdu City. In total, four Western Han dynasty tombs, all of them looted, were excavated. The tombs are earthen vertical shaft tombs containing a wooden outer coffin. These could be divided into two basic types: tombs with hidden compartments, and those without. The overall dimensions and alignment of the tombs are more or less identical (south-north orientated, length of the outer coffin chambers 5–7 m, width 3–4.5 m, height 2–2.2 m). More than 620 objects were excavated, including wares of pottery (pots, tripods, basins, bowls, urns, bottles, wells, and lamps), lacquer (ear-bowls, make-up containers, tables, trays, boxes, wooden figurines, horses, round discs (bi), scepters, stands, offertory tables, semicircular objects, and models of looms) and bronze (a trigger mechanism of a crossbow, belt hooks, button-like ornaments, Banliang and Wuzhu coins). Furthermore, the finds included a few objects of iron, bamboo, and palm fiber.
Among the most precious finds were more than 50 inscribed wooden tablets from tomb 1, a jade seal and four models of looms from tomb 2, as well as 920 inscribed bamboo slips and one lacquer model of a human figure showing acupuncture points from tomb 3. Documented on the inscribed wooden tablets from tomb 1 are official papers and records on sorcery. Identified on the bamboo slips from tomb 3 were mainly contents related to traditional medicine, pharmacy, and pathology. In Sichuan Province, this is the first find of inscribed slips with texts related to medicine. The discovery of the inscribed slips recording knowledge of ancient Chinese medicine is the first of its kind in Sichuan Province, and the second largest in China after the finds made earlier at the Mawangdui site in Hunan Province. More important, these files are believed to belong to the Bianque School, a legendary medical school once believed to have been lost.
The four loom models are so far the oldest and best preserved models of multi-heddle and multi-treadle looms for Sichuan brocade that date to the Han dynasty. They provide valuable information for the research related to the history and technology of silk weaving.
The tombs could be dated to the reigns of the Western Han emperors Jing (188–141 BC) and Wu (156–87 BC).
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