Chinese archaeologists have discovered large quantities of mural paintings at an ancient Loulan tomb along the famous Silk Road that local media earlier in the month reported as having been robbed.
A team of Chinese archaeologists are carrying out field excavations at the historic site of Loulan, located at the eastern fringe of the vast, desolate Taklimakan Desert in southern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, northwest China. One of their purposes is to investigate the robbed tomb.
Archaeologists found that the tomb consists of two coffin chambers. In the square front chamber, they found bright-colored mural paintings on the four walls.
Archaeologists also found the lower part of a pillar, covered with mural paintings of many wheel-shaped designs, standing in the middle of the tomb chamber. They said the pillar had been destroyed by robbers.
Archaeologists could not obtain a complete image of the mural paintings on the walls of the front chamber as the lower part of the chamber was still filled with earth.
In the back chamber, archaeologists discovered layers of wooden blocks for making coffins and mural paintings, mostly red designs of wheels, on the north and east walls.
Findings in the rear chamber also included textile items and human bones, a Xinhua correspondent reported from the excavation site.
This was the first time that such a wealth of mural paintings had been discovered in the Loulan tombs, and they were not sure whether the robbed tomb belonged to the imperial families of the Loulan (Kroraina) Kingdom or not, said archaeologists with the Xinjiang Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology.
Loulan, capital of the Loulan Kingdom, was a thriving commercial hub more than 2,000 years ago. The city was buried by shifting sands during the third century and disappeared from historical records until early last century when the ruins of Loulan were accidentally discovered by Swedish explorer Sven Herdin on the western bank of Lop Nur Lake, now a land of sand dunes instead of water and dubbed a "forbidden zone to life".
Further excavation at the tomb and nearby areas is still underway.
Since 1979, Chinese archaeologists have made six surveys of the Loulan area.
(Xinhua News Agency February 28, 2003)