A rare jade statue was unearthed for the first time from a nearly 2,000-year-old burial site in northwest China's Shaanxi province.
The statue was discovered in a tomb in Maying Town of Baoji City by archaeologists from Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology (SPIA).
The team was called in to perform a rescue excavation when relics were discovered on the construction site of a high-speed rail station.
The flat, 12 cm long jade statue is engraved with shallow concave lines in the shape of a male figure. The piece outlines a man's head without the body. The figure has closed eyes, a round nose and a wide mouth. He wears his hair in an ancient conical updo, and has a mustache and a beard divided into three sections.
Archaeologists estimate that the tomb where the statue was buried was owned by a man of the lowest noble title living in the early Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 A.D.)
Statues of a similar pattern have rarely been found in China, according to Xu Weihong, an archaeologist with SPIA. "So far, such statues have only been discovered in a few places, like the northern suburbs of Xian, capital city of Shaanxi province, and Lixian County in neighboring Gansu province," he said, adding that most of the jade statues were originally made in pairs. The SPIA team speculated that the jade statues served as sacrifices in the ancient feudal state of Qin (778-207 B.C.) Historical records show that Baoji City was a major site for sacrificial ceremonies at that time.
Archaeologists said ancient people buried jade along with the deceased because they believed it could exorcise evil spirits near the tomb. "It shows that ancient Chinese were extremely superstitious," said Xu. Archaeologists also discovered seven other tombs in the excavation site, estimated to be from middle and late West Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- 24 A.D.)
A total of 70 pieces of relics were unearthed.