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6 November 2005
Skeleton buried in fetal position discovered in Beijing

A Chinese archaeological team, jointly set up by School of Archaeology and Museum Studies of the Peking University and Beijing Research Institute of Cultural Relics, has discovered recently an early Neolithic human skeleton buried in the fetal position that lived about 9,000 years ago.
     The tomb faces the Qingshui River with backing on to a mountain slope, just to avoid attacks from northwest winds. In an about 1.2-meter-long tomb, there lies a skeleton about one meter long. The head of the skeleton is intact. However, the skeleton posture is very strange, looking just like a baby in a mother's womb, in terminology, this is known as a burial in the fetal position.
     With careful looking, one can see that there are creasing lines on the head of the decreased, but it remains intact basically. Both hands of the dead locked in front of the chest. The outline of the skeleton from the belly above is very clear and its lower limps are pressed on arm bones vertically. It looks like a cross and the bones of its finger and feet nails are found nowhere. The pelvis is basically buried in yellow earth.
     There are many possibilities for the burial, for instance, the decreased was bent and buried or the lower limps were bent back just after its death, explained Lu Zun'e, an archaeologist with Peking University. The skeleton dates back to the early Neolithic about 9,000 years ago, said Professor Zhao Chaohong with the school of Peking University and also leader of the team.
     Apart from the strange burial posture, another feature of the buried skeleton, dubbed as "Donghulin man", attracted people's attention. Firstly, there scattered about dozens of spiral cases measuring one centimeter long near the hands and knees of the dead, which can be connected. Very beautiful, the conches are white, glittering with silver rays, which may be linked as a necklace. In addition, many pearl shells of different sizes measuring between 2 to 3 centimeters with holes are found in the burial. There are also carefully polished jade wares with two kinds: white and greenish-black colors. They might be used as ornaments, showing the aesthetic consciousness of the ancient people 10,000 years ago.
     As for the age of the dead, some experts say the decreased was about 30 while others say it was about 17 or 18. Zhao Chaohong said it is certain that the dead one was a grown-up before death, standing about 1.6 meters high. At the present, the newly discovered Donghulin man's skeleton has been moved to Peking University.

Source: People's Daily Online (3 November 2005)

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