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20 May 2007
Taiwanese stone coffins unearthed

Five stone coffins were unearthed at the Hsiang Lan prehistoric cultural site along the Taimali coast in Taitung, southeastern Taiwan, which archaeologists described as a significant archaeological discovery. The coffins, measuring 40 cm, 50 cm, 85 cm and 100 cm in length, respectively, were found buried in a group, said Lee Kun-hsiu, an assistant researcher at the National Museum of Prehistory. He described the coffins as the first of their kind unearthed at the site, where archaeologists have dug out 14 adult stone coffins and two other small ones in two separate places since the ruins first came to light in 2003.
     Judging from the size, Lee speculated that the smallest one might have carried a newborn baby. Other coffins might have been for children aged between two and five and the largest could have been for an adult woman, he said. Lee, who is in charge of work to excavate the prehistoric ruins, said the 85-cm coffin is the most completely preserved. Unlike the others, it contains a ceramic urn and is covered by nine stone plates, while the others have only three or five stone plates as covers and contain no urns.
     The coffins date back to between 2,200 and 1,400 years ago. None have any bones except for the second-largest one, which still has a few skull bones and a molar tooth inside. After analyzing the remains, Lee said the dead was likely a child aged two or three, while the ceramic urn suggests that it had high status in the tribe. The ruins, which contain evidence of multiple cultures, cover an area of 20 hectares, are eight meters below the beach and are situated less than 50 meters from the shore, leaving them at risk from big waves.

Source: The China Post (15 May 2006)

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