Giant panda skeleton found in 2,000-year-old Chinese royal tomb

Chinese researchers have discovered the fully preserved skeleton of a giant panda, inside the tomb of a Emperor of the Han dynastydating back more than two millennia.

The discovery happened by chance during his investigation of the large burial site. of Emperor Wen of Han near Xi’an, Shaanxi Province. According to archaeologists who discovered the remains, they believe the animal was buried next to the esteemed leader to display his wealth and power, but it has also been suggested that the panda was buried. accompany the leader on his journey to the beyond.

At the end of 2021, archaeologists earthen the remains of a tiger, an Asian tapir extinct more than 1000 years ago, a bison, a yak, a takin and other animals in 20 pits at the corners of a royal garden near Wen’s tomb, West China Metropolis Daily reported. .

However, as indicated Hou Songmei, archaeologist from the Shaanxi Academy of Archeology, this This is the first time experts have discovered a complete panda skeleton. in an old burial place.

“The skeleton of the giant panda unearthed in the animal sacrifice pit is very complete, with the head facing the Imperial Mausoleum and the tail facing west. This should be a giant panda on the northern slope of the Qinling Mountains», they said from the Institute of Archeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in a statement.

Among the excavations, he also discovered a tomb surrounded by 110 wells where more than 1,500 archaeological artifacts were found, including ceramic figurines, bronze seals, iron objects, bronze chariots and horses.

In the tomb of Emperor Wen of the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD), more than 1,500 cultural artifacts were discovered. Credit: Shaanxi Archaeological Academy.

He Emperor Wen reigned between 202 – 157 a. C., was known for the reformist approaches to his empire, his austere lifestyle and his empathy for the people. He is considered a successful emperor whose reign was characterized by peace and prosperity. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he chose to have his burial place inside a mountain, avoiding a traditional burial mound.

Other animals found in royal tombs

Archaeologists have discovered several huge wild animals in royal tombs in different parts of Shaanxi, and they are believed to have acted as status symbols for Han rulers.

Artwork depicting Emperor Wen of Han (漢文帝), his Empress, his favorite consort Lady Shen (慎夫人), and the official Yuan Ang (爰盎) in Shanglin Garden. Public domain.

The remains of a red-crowned crane, a peacock, a monkey and a tortoise were found in the tomb of the emperor’s mother.

Interestingly, archaeologists also found a new species of gibbon, now extinct, in the tomb of Lady Xia, the grandmother of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang.

As Hu explained, these remarkable creatures were found exclusively in the tombs of emperors, empresses, and mothers of emperors. Some experts believe the animals may have been offerings from southern China, suggesting a complex and intricate cultural practice that spread beyond the Han capital.

However, this ancient Chinese dynasty is not the only one to have taken an interest in this practice. Countless animals have been found next to the graves of elite societies around the world. For example, at The Ancient Egyptians they were particularly fond of animal burials and cult graves with dogs, cats, baboons, lions, horses, goats, snakes, birds, and large mummified crocodiles.

Pandas have been admired in China for millennia

Throughout Chinese history, giant pandas have been considered “revered beings of the forest” and “living relics”, surviving from the time of the Pleistocene, a time when saber-toothed tigers roamed. Its symbolic meaning in Chinese society is ancient, representing tranquility and peace.

According to archaeologists, the panda found in the emperor’s tomb probably belonged to the Qinling subspecies, which has larger and rounder faces, and is different from the more common giant panda.

Historically, they were treasured by rulers, often used as treasured offerings to other royals and foreign dignitaries. Ancient warriors often drew parallels with these creatures for their strength and courage.

You might also be interested in: Archaeologists are afraid to open the tomb of the first Chinese emperor, what is the reason?

With this discovery, researchers hope to unravel additional layers of ancient Chinese history by deciphering the eating habits and geographical origins of these adorable creatures.

References: West China Metropolis Daily.

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