China: Prehistoric Tombs Discovered With Sacrificed Humans

Archaeologists recently unearthed an ancient cemetery in China, revealing almost 300 prehistoric tombs, some of which have held sacrificed humans. Some of the burials date back 4,000 years, and are located underground. Some of these tombs featured entire families and individuals buried with weapons and pottery, and some others housed individuals who were very likely sacrificed.

A peek inside the ancient prehistoric tombs

In some of the tombs, discovered near Mogou village in northwestern China, the remains were placed on their sides, with their limbs bent and their faces placed toward the head of the chamber. The bones were relatively well preserved, and the bodies are all oriented toward the Northwest. Some of the tombs had chambers that held pottery with uniquely crafted designs, and a variety of other artifacts, including jewelry and weaponry (researchers uncovered items including bronze sabers, stone mace heads, axes, daggers and knives).

There were also artifacts that were once used for rituals, including what archaeologists have dubbed “bone divination lots,” items that were likely used during rituals put on to predict the future. Bone divination, as it turns out, was a pretty widespread practice in the ancient world. In China, it was developed even before the advent of writing.

Exploring the Qijia culture of these prehistoric tombs

The majority of these artifacts classify as belonging to the Qijia culture, an early Bronze Age culture that was cultivated around the upper Yellow River valley. The people who lived around this region survived in an arid environment. They subsisted mostly on millet — more commonly known as cereal crops — and kept animals including sheep, goats and pigs.

Interestingly, people of the Qijia culture often lived in houses that were buried partially underground. Remains in the prehistoric tombs show that the buildings were once square or rectangular, with doors pointing south, ideal for absorbing sunlight and warmth into the house.

Scientists weren’t able to conclude why the people of this culture have engaged in human sacrifices, and haven’t found out who exactly were sacrificed. Some of the skeletal remains in the prehistoric tombs are destroyed to a great degree. The ongoing theory is that these people may have fought with and conquered other groups, before enslaving and sacrificing them.