2,100-Year-Old Royal Mausoleum Found in China

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A 2,100-year-old mausoleum built for a king named Liu Fei has been discovered in modern-day Xuyi County in Jiangsu, China, archaeologists report.

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Liu Fei died in 128 B.C. during the 26th year of his rule over a kingdom named Jiangdu, which was part of the Chinese empire.

Although the mausoleum had been plundered, archaeologists found that it still contained more than 10,000 artifacts, including treasures made of gold, silver, bronze, jade and lacquer. They also found severallife-size chariot and dozens of smaller chariots.

Excavated between 2009 and 2011, the mausoleum contains "three main tombs, 11 attendant tombs, two chariot-and-horse pits, two weaponry pits" and the remains of an enclosure wall that originally encompassed the complex, a team of Nanjing Museum archaeologists said in an article recently published in the journal Chinese Archaeology. The wall was originally about 1,608 feet (490 meters) long on each side. [See Photos of the Ancient Mausoleum and Artifacts]

The archaeologists said their work was a "rescue excavation," as the site was threatened by quarrying.

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A large earthen mound — extending more than 492 feet (150 meters) — once covered the king's tomb, the archaeologists say. The tomb has two long shafts leading to a burial chamber that measured about 115 feet (35 m) long by 85 feet (26 m) wide.

When archaeologists entered the burial chamber they found that Liu Fei was provided with a vast assortment of goods for the afterlife.

Such goods would have been fitting for such a "luxurious" ruler. "Liu Fei admired daring and physical prowess. He built palaces and observation towers and invited to his court all the local heroes and strong men from everywhere around," wrote ancient historian Sima Qian (145-86 B.C.), as translated by Burton Watson. "His way of life was marked by extreme arrogance and luxury."

His burial chamber is divided into a series of corridors and small chambers. The chamber contained numerous weapons, including iron swords, spearheads, crossbow triggers, halberds (a two-handled pole weapon), knives and more than 20 chariot models (not life-size).

The archaeologists also found musical instruments, including chime bells, zither bridges (the zither is a stringed instrument) and jade tuning pegs decorated with a dragon design.

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