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Construction workers discover rare 1,800-year-old brick tombs with intricate murals in China

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Builders discover rare 1,800-year-old brick tombs with intricate murals while digging on a construction site in China

  • Workers found the tombs while digging the foundation of a construction site
  • The ruins in Dezhou, eastern China, feature bright paintings on its brick walls
  • Experts believe they belonged to a family from the late Eastern Han┬áDynasty

By Billie Thomson For Mailonline

Published: | Updated:

A team of builders have discovered two rare tombs dating back some 1,800 years while digging the foundation of a construction site in eastern China.

The ancient structures, situated in the modern city of Dezhou, are built of bricks and painted with intricate murals, according to Chinese state media.

Archaeologists believe that they belonged to an influential family, whose members were officials or aristocrats from the late Eastern Han Dynasty (20-225AD).

The construction workers came across the unusual burial sites in May in Dezhou, eastern China

The ancient structures are built of bricks and painted with intricate murals (left). Experts believe they belonged to an influential family from the late Eastern Han Dynasty (20-225AD)

The construction workers came across the unusual burial sites in May while working in Dezhou’s Decheng District, according to state-run Xinhua News Agency, citing local Qilu Evening News.

‘At the time, we dug out some bricks and there were colourful paintings on the bricks. We felt that we might have found an ancient tomb,’ Mr Sun, the supervisor of the construction site, told a reporter last week.

Workers immediately halted their project and reported the finding to local officials.

The Shandong Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology assessed the site in June and found out that the area contained not one but two tombs, the report said. The authority sent experts to carry out further excavation in September.

Various patterns were found painted on the brick walls in red, black, white and blue.

One of the tombs measures 20 metres (65 feet) in length and six metres (20 feet) in width, while the other is 16 metres (52 feet) long and four metres (13 feet) wide, according to reports

‘[These two tombs] are representative examples of the Dezhou area and very rare,’ said Zhao Fangchao (left), a researcher from the Shandong Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics

Han Yingxun, a restorer, told a reporter that the paint would have been extracted from natural resources, such as cinnabar, a powdered mineral that produced the red pigment.

The patterns, including geometric lines and that of fish and plants, would have been fashionable and reflected people’s aesthetic nearly two millennia ago, Han added.

One of the tombs is said to measure 20 metres (65 feet) in length and six metres (20 feet) in width, while the other is 16 metres (52 feet) long and four metres (13 feet) wide.

Researchers believe that the tombs belonged to the same family because they had been built side by side and faced the same direction.

‘[These two tombs] are representative examples of the Dezhou area and very rare,’ Zhao Fangchao, a researcher from the Shandong Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics, told Pear Video.

‘[Their owners’] social ranks were likely not low. They could be regional officials, landlords or powerful figures,’ he explained.

‘Their discovery has provided great importance to our understanding of the burial format, history and funeral customs of Dezhou and even the entire Shandong.’

Archaeologists also unearthed a range of burial goods made of clay, including miniature buildings, bowls, cups and chicken figurines.

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