3000 year old gold funeral mask unearthed in nobles tomb in China
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3,000-year-oldgold funeral mask unearthed in noble's tomb in China
A goldfuneral mask,thought to be more than 3,000 years old, has been discovered in the tomb of anancient noble in the city of Zhengzhou in central China. It's one of the oldestgold objects ever found in central China, as contemporary treasures tend to becrafted from bronze and jade, raising questions about possible links to otherearly Chinese states where gold was more common.
The goldmask is 7.2 inches (18.3 centimeters) long and 5.7 inches (14.5 cm) wide —large enough to cover the entire face of an adult, Huang Fucheng, aresearcher at the Zhengzhou Municipal Institute of Cultural Heritage andArchaeology, told the state-owned China News Service(opens in new tab). Itweighs about 1.4 ounces (40 grams).
And theSouth China Morning Post (opens in new tab) (SCMP) reported that theinstitute's director, Gu Wanfa, said the gold mask may have symbolized that thedeceased had an "imperishable gold body" and was likelyintended to keep the spirit of the dead person whole.
Governmentarchaeologists made the announcement of the mask's discovery during a newsconference in Beijing on Sept. 16. Finds from three other ancient Chinesearchaeological sites were also revealed at the news conference, but the goldmask is arguably the most striking.
The newfoundZhengzhou tomb is a significant find for research into the burial rituals ofthe Shang Dynasty, and it may even provide new insight into the origins ofChinese civilization, Chen Lüsheng, deputy director of the National Museum ofChina in Beijing, told the outlet.
The newlydiscovered funeral mask, from the tomb at Zhengzhou in Henan province, is olderthan the gold funeral mask found last year in the Sanxingdui Ruins, anarchaeological site in China's southwestern Sichuan province attributed to theShu kingdom.
The Shukingdom in the southwest is traditionally dated as later than the Shang Dynastyin central China. But the two states may have existed at the same time, andarchaeologists hope to establish links between them.
Thediscovery of the new gold mask is "exciting," saidarchaeologist and metallurgist Ruiliang Liu, a curator of the Early ChinaCollection at the British Museum in London who wasn't involved in the Zhengzhoufinds.
"Thediscovery of the gold mask in such an early and important context at Zhengzhouraises many intriguing questions," Liu said. "Where does the raw gold come from? … [and]why did the tomb occupant choose to be buried with gold, while other top eliteschose only bronzes and jades?"
But anotherpossibility is that the gold was brought from farther afield as an exoticmetal, which could indicate a trade network existed during the Shang periodbetween the Yellow River valley and gold-producing regions, such as the YangtzeRiver valley farther south, he said. Liu also noted that very few Shang Dynastyarchaeological sites near Zhengzhou have been excavated because a large moderncity sits above most of it.