Archaeologists working in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have found three leather polo balls that are 2,400 to 2,800 years old, indicating polo was being played in China up to 800 years earlier than previously thought.
Archaeologists working in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have found three leather polo balls that are 2,400 to 2,800 years old. [Photo/People.cn]
The balls, discovered in the ancient Yanghai Tombs in Turpan, are each about the size of a fist, with a red cross painted on the bottom. They were made of sheep skin and stuffed with leather scraps and wool, said Chen Xinyong of Chinese academic institution Academia Turfanica on Monday.
They are a very similar design to ones unearthed from a Western Han Dynasty (202BC-9AD) tomb in Dunhuang City of northwest China's Gansu Province, Chen said.
Archaeological team leader Lyu Guo'en said the polo balls dated back to the Spring and Autumn Warring States period (770BC - 221BC), even earlier than China's first record of the sport, in the Han Dynasty (202BC - 220AD).
Along with the polo balls, the archaeologists also found eight long-handled mallets that are clearly recognizable from paintings of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), when polo was popular and frequently depicted in art.
Similar mallets were also seen in the hands of terra-cotta polo players excavated from the Astana Tombs in the region.
The new items are further evidence of a thriving polo culture in Xinjiang. In recent years, a polo field measuring 6,600 square meters has also been found in the region's Tashkurgan Tajik Autonomous County.
Dating back 3,000 years, the Yanghai Tombs are the grandest tombs discovered in the Turpan Basin and nearby regions. Since digs began at the site in the 1970s, archaeologists have found large numbers of well-preserved items.