Chinese archaeologists have unearthed an unidentified cluster of 102 tombs, 40 percent of which were made for infants, on the Pamirs Plateau in the westernmost part of the country.
The tombs, found in Kezilesu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, contain wooden caskets with desiccated corpses, as well as stoneware, pottery and copper ware believed to have been buried as sacrificial items, said Ai Tao from the Xinjiang Archaeological Institute.
"The cluster covers an area of 1,500 square meters on a 20-meter-high cliff, an unusual location for tombs," Ai said.
He added that his team was also very surprised to find such a large number of infant corpses. "But further research is needed to determine why so many people from that tribe died young."
Archaeologists said they have also unearthed a large number of well-preserved utensils made from gourds, some of which were placed inside the caskets.
"The burial custom is the first of its kind to be found in Xinjiang," said Ai.
It is believed that the cluster dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907). At that time, economic and cultural exchanges between China and the West flourished via the ancient Silk Road. '
"The shape of the felt-covered caskets show that sinic culture had a great influence on the lives of local people's some 1,300 years ago," said Yu Zhiyong, head of the Xinjiang Archaeological Institute.
The tomb cluster was discovered amid the construction of a local hydropower project last year.
Kezilesu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture was an important pass on the ancient Silk Road.