Tomb of the Khitan noble of Liao Dynasty Found in Sunzhigou Cemetery, Hebei Province
Sunzhigou cemetery is located in Longhua county, Chengde city, Hebei province. In July of 2016, Hebei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics in conjunction with Chengde Municipal Administration of Cultural Relics conducted a salvage archaeological excavation to the looted tomb (M1) of Sunzhigou cemetery.
The hole at the bottom of the south wall
Tomb M1 was located at the north of the cemetery, a round earthen shaft pit tomb. The vaulted passage was at the south, with a second-tier platform at the bottom. The upper opening of the grave was 1.6 meters under the ground, round shaped, with slope walls and flat bottom. The diameter of the opening was 6 meters, and that of the bottom was 6.4 meters, and the depth was 1.35 meters. Red cypress fragment was found on the stones at the top of the vaulted passage, indicating the cypress roof was built on the top of it before. The floor of the tomb chamber paved with black bricks along the inner side of the second-tier platform, was 3.8 meters’ long in the east and west direction, 3.9 meters’ long in the south and north direction. At the north wall, a brick tomb bed was found in the east and west direction, with three pieces of lower limb bones and foot bones on the bed. According to the skeletal forms, they were from two individuals. The bones in the north and middle belong to the same one, placed in the middle of the bed, might be a female. The bone in the south was at the side of the bed, might be a male. It could be seen that this was a joint burial that the female was buried prior and the male was after. An ash pit was found at the south top of the grave, oval, filled with ash, which was related to the sacrificial activities after being buried. There was a hole at the bottom of the south wall of the ash pit, connected to the ash pit, with fillings inside, might be attached to the pit. Few pieces of grave goods was unearthed, including the silver soles, KaiYuan TongBao copper coins, gilt copper belt fragments, cowhide belt pieces, white porcelain fragments and etc..
Charcoal layer in the accumulation
Tomb M1 has been robbed many times, severe damaged, and most of the burial objects were stolen. Luckily, the shape and structure of the tomb preserved roughly. Its shape and structure was unique, with neither slope tomb passage, nor tomb gate; with a tomb vaulted passage inside the chamber, whose structure was complex. So far, no tomb with the same shape and structure has been found before. The hexagonal chamber and cypress wooden walls had similarities with the hexagonal cypress wooden outer coffin of the tombs of the Liao dynasty. The KaiYuan TongBao coins unearthed, indicating the tomb was not earlier than the Tang dynasty. The silver soles were part of the grave clothes made of copper wire, which was common to see in the noble tombs of the middle and late period of the Liao dynasty. Copper gilt belt was also a common burial object found in the noble tombs. Thus, the period of M1 was about to be defined as the middle and late period of Liao dynasty.
The silver soles discovered in the tomb
Tomb M1 is the largest tomb ever cleared up in the cemetery. The large scale of the grave, the complex construction of the tomb chamber, silver soles and grave clothes made of copper wire, that all indicated the tombs were belonged to the noble family. According to the families gathering burial customs, this tomb was speculated to be the higher rank than those of others. The burial objects had distinct national features of Khitan, and the tomb owner was supposed to be the noble of Khitan. (Translator: Wang Jue)