A tomb dating back to 1,000 years was unearthed at Datong City in northern China. The ancient relic contained no human remains, but instead boasted a colorful scene: a ceiling decorated with stars and constellations and imagery detailing a life otherwise unknown.
Discovered nearby a modern day railway station, the circular tomb features murals with vivid depictions of everyday life. “The tomb murals mainly depict the daily domestic life of the tomb occupant,” along with his travels, a team of researchers explained in their report on the tomb recently published in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics, a new journal that translates Chinese-language articles into English.
On the tomb’s east wall, people who may have served as attendants to the chamber’s occupant are portrayed with fruit and drinks. The wall also shows a reclining deer, a crane, bamboo trees, a crawling yellow turtle, and a poem, which reads, “Time tells that bamboo can endure cold weather. Live as long as the spirits of the crane and turtle.”
Meanwhile, the tomb’s west wall exhibits scenes of agriculture and travel, including men ploughing, a Bactrian camel pulling a carriage, and a saddled horse being led by an attendant.
The site’s north wall showcases images of animals—assumingly the occupant’s pets. There is “a black and white cat with a red ribbon on its neck and a silk-strip ball in its mouth,” the researchers wrote, with the same scene also depicting “a black and white dog with a red ribbon on its neck and a curved tail.” Attendants of both genders are displayed beside the cat and dog, while an empty bed sits between the animals.
Featuring stars painted in a glaring red color, the ceiling’s “completed constellations are formed by straight lines connecting the stars in relevant shapes and forms,” the researchers wrote.
Though the name of the tomb’s owner has not survived over the years, the excavation team – led by Junxi Liu – found a statue of the occupant, assumed to be Buddhist. Standing at 3.1 feet tall, the figure shows a smiling man, dressed in a long black robe, sitting cross-legged on a platform.
Back then, the area where the tomb is located belonged to the Liao Dynasty, which was ruled by people called the Khitan who controlled a multicultural empire that included Han Chinese in the government. Researchers reported that the occupant was therefore likely of Han Chinese descent, and belonged to some rank and wealth.
For complete images of the tomb, visit Live Science