A Family's Final Resting Place

Digs & Discoveries November/December 2021

(Courtesy Jinan Institute of Archaeology)

Archaeologists have unearthed a well-built and exquisitely decorated family mausoleum in Jinan, in eastern China’s Shandong Province, dating to the Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368). The 12 tombs were built to high standards, with gateways, domes, and double rooms, and contained complete sets of furniture and painted murals. The researchers also collected more than 60 artifacts, including pottery, porcelain, and bronze mirrors. Only very wealthy people could have afforded such luxury, says lead researcher Qi Xing of the Jinan Institute of Archaeology. In some of the tombs, coffins were buried under floor tiles to impede grave robbers, a very rare design feature, says Xing. The team has identified the tomb owners based on epitaphs and other written evidence as the Guo family, well-known businesspeople in the area. The bodies are believed to include those of at least five Guo brothers, their families, and their mother. The next step, Xing says, is to conduct DNA tests to find out more specifically how the tomb’s owners were related.

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