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Massive tomb complex discovered in Beijing suburb

Burial site spans 11 centuries and includes rare frescoes

Archaeologists have discovered one of the largest ancient burial sites in China underneath land in Beijing that was about to be turned into an apartment complex. The 129 tombs, which were found in the Daxing district of the city, contain human skeletons, pottery, porcelain and lacquerware as well as small funerary gifts.

The site spans 11 centuries, from the Eastern Han dynasty (AD25-220) through to the Northern (AD386-581), Tang (AD618-907) and Liao dynasties (AD907-1125). Two tombs dating from the Liao dynasty contain rare frescos that might provide clues as to the identity of those buried. There are no identifiable remains within these tombs as cremation was customary during the Liao dynasty.

Beijing was one of five capitals of the Liao dynasty and after its fall, Beijing served as the capital city of the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. The city still has many historical sites, but few are as large or well preserved as the site in Daxing, nor do they span such a long period of time.

Archaeologists are expected to continue excavation in the coming months. As we went to press, 75 tombs had reportedly been fully excavated; the remaining 54 are scheduled for completion in early June, according to the China Daily newspaper.