Construction workers digging a national water transport system to distribute water around China have stumbled upon an ancient royal tomb.
The tomb, in Hebei province which borders Beijing, is thought to date from China’s Northern Qi dynasty which ruled from 550 to 577. It is the tomb of Gao Xiao Xu a male heir to the Qi dynasty. Chinese archaeologists are especially interested in the intricate frescoes – depicting honour guard officials – painted on the walls of a 15 metre long passage because the images will help them piece together the customs and dress of the period. But the excavation of the tomb has of course exposed the frescoes to the fresh air – which could damage the crumbling images even further. So experts are working to stabilise the images and after they have been examined in situ, they will be removed for further study. Together with the frescoes, archaeologists also discovered pottery figurines, bluestone tomb doors and epitaphs. These are not by any means the only frescos discovered in China, or even the most spectacular but the discovery is important because the details of the clothing depicted provide another piece in the puzzle of historians’ understanding of people’s lives 1500 years ago.