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15 July 2015
Chinese Bronze Age cemetery raises questions over sacrificial links

The Gansu Province of China is a sprawling province ranging from central to northwest areas, covering an area of over 400,000 square kilometres, and it is known for having a wealth of Neolithic influences and artefacts. One site in particular is a large cemetery located near the modern village of Mogou, on a terrace overlooking the Mogou River.
     The cemetery has been dated at approximately 1,700 BCE, at the time of the Qijia Culture, which was mainly known for domesticating horses and oracle divination. It is also believed that this culture had early links with Siberian and Central Asian cultures, from whom they developed the art of making copper and tin bronze objects.
     The range of objects which were found on the site is quite broad, from physical adornments such as earrings and bracelets to knives. These were all made using either casting or hot forging techniques. To date over 300 bronze and copper objects have been found and identified, many more than in other contemporary sites around China. All of this can be easily explained and origins traced but what is not clear is the role played by sacrifice in the burial process.
     Excavation of the site started in 2009, with the discovery of over 300 tombs or burial chambers (this has now increased to over 1,000). All tombs were aligned on a northwest/ southeast axis and were buried chambers, sometimes identified by mounds above the surface. Most tombs were built for individuals but there were also family tombs. Several personal artefacts and items of pottery were found but there was also evidence of human sacrifices being placed adjacent to, and facing, the tombs. The reasons for the sacrifices and the origin of the victims still remains a mystery.

Edited from Digital Journal (28 May 2015)

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