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The Tree Han Tombs of Mawangdui

The eastern mound in which the Number One Han Tomb was found was 65 feet high and about 165-200 feet in diameter at the base. It was constructed of pounded earth. The grave inside the mound faced north and measured 6-10 feet wide. When the mound was opened it was found that there were four steps downward from the top which ter- minuted ln a funnel-shaped wall; this led down to the grave chamber about 50 below. In the chamber three coffins were found, placed one inside the other, the outer coffins being covered with 26 bamboo mats. The Inner surface of the coffins had been lacquered and the outside surfaces painted to depict various. Many show mythical animals in various activities: fighting, hunting, playing musical instruments. There are also scenes featuring dilate geometric designs.

The inner coffins was 6.5 feet wide, and 2 feet high. Inside was found an extremely well-preserved female corpse with face upward and head lying towards the north. The corpse, measuring 5 feet in height, was clad in more than 20 garments; nine silk ribbons had been fastened to it from head to foot, and a silk robe was used as a final cover. Medical examination of the corpse revealed that the muscles were still resilient and the color of the arteries the same as normally found in a fresh corpse. The soft tissue was in an extremely well-preserved state. It is estimated that the woman died when she was 50 years old.

This remarkable preservation was due to the charcoal and white-peat layers used to cover the coffins, which kept out the moisture and oxygen that cause rapid deterioration of human tissue. Of the silk products most of the varieties known to have been produced during the Han Dynasty were found in the tombs. The objects include woven, embroidered, and pleated silks; various kinds of clothing including skirts and robes; gloves shoes and socks. Some of the silk is light weight and similar to the finest varieties produced today; E.g., one piece 50 inches wide by 75 inches long weighs only one and three quarter ounces. The most precious silk object of all was found covering the inner coffin. It is a masterpiece of ancient Chinese silk painting and depicts scenes from heaven, earth, and hell. Some sections illustrate the daily life of the time while others relate to mythology.

Among the beautiful examples of lacquer ware that were excavated, some dish still contained portions of food–lotus root, chicken bones, beef steaks, pieces of chicken, and fish. Most of the lacquer ware is in magnificent condition.

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