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23 April 2006
Beheaded skeletons replay Chinese war history

Chinese archaeologists have unearthed some 30 beheaded skeletons dating back more than 2,000 years in central China's Henan Province. The skeletons were obviously warriors, the tallest of whom was at least 1.85 meters, said Sun Xinmin, head of the Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archeology.
     The human remains were found scattered in a pit in the city of Xinzheng, adjacent to a major battlefield where State Qin overthrew State Han toward the end of the Warring States Period (475 to 221 BCE), said Sun. He and his peers are working hard to collect and preserve the findings as an expressway will soon start to be built there. Sun said the skeletons must have belonged to soldiers of State Han and their heads were likely taken by the Qin warriors who intended to receive a promotion based on the number of enemy troops they killed. Some of the skeletons still disclose evidence of being slashed by by broadswords and many were burned, he said. Three of the skeletons were found crouching on the top of one another and Sun suspected they had been buried alive before they were beheaded.
     He said this is the first such finding in China and and is a graphic reminder of the cruelty of war as it was fought approximately 2,000 years ago.
The copper coins spotted close to the skeletons also indicate that the massacre occurred sometime before 221 BCE. "I'd say it was in 230 BCE, the year Yingzheng, the founding emperor of imperial Qin Dynasty, conquered State Han," said Hao Benxing, a researcher with the institute. Yingzheng was known as the first man to unite the whole of China but he is also known as a bloodthirsty and mercilessness ruler who ordered the massacre of countless soldiers and civilians. His kingdom, as well as the Qin Dynasty, had a promotion system that inspired killing enemy soldiers, said Zhu Shaohou, a noted professor from elite Henan University and specialist on the Chinese history. "I've been studying the ancient promotion system for half a century but the beheaded skeletons were the first evidence ever found to prove it," he acknowledged.

Source: People's Daily Online (19 April 2005)

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