Ancient Mongolian cemetery reveals silk-covered burial

Excavations at a 1500-year-old cemetery in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, revealed numerous artefacts, including a silk-covered body inside a wooden coffin and a silver bowl depicting Greek gods.

The burial as found in situ (by Silk Road vol. 14 via Live Science)

The cemetery was studied by archaeologists between 2012-2014, with the results just having been published. It is believed that the cemetery belonged to a family of aristocrats, possibly the tribal chief of the Gaoche people (also known as Tiele, Chile or Tele), who fell under control of the Northern Wei dynasty (386-535 AD), which controlled much of northern China and Mongolia, giving the dynasty control over part of the of the Silk Road.

The burial (by Silk Road vol. 14 via Live Science)
Wooden coffin (by Silk Road vol. 14 via Live Science)

Researchers discovered six tombs at the cemetery, five of which date to the Northern Wei dynasty. Inside one of the tombs a body was found, wrapped in yellow silk, wearing a gold headband, a gold necklace, a gold belt, gold finger-rings and leather boots. Archaeologists did not yet remove the silk so the body has not yet been studied. The coffin is made of wood with paintings on the sides. It depicts a blue-roofed house held up with red pillars and the occupant sitting in the centre, surrounded by many white-faced attendants who are standing or sitting and wearing round hoods.

Silver bowl (by Silk Road vol. 14 via Live Science)

Among the finds from the site is a silver bowl with four projecting bosses (protrusions) at the bottom, depicting characters from Greek mythology: Zeus, Hera, Aphrodite and Athena. The artefact is believed to have been imported from central or west Asia.

Golden artefacts found in the tomb (by Silk Road vol. 14 via Live Science)

(after Live Science & Silk Road vol. 14)

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