Treasure-filled tombs — 12,000 years old — exposed by drought in China, photos show

Parched by drought and withered by sun, a lake in southeastern China began to shrink. The dropping water level lengthened lakefront beaches, stretched the size of small islands and exposed a forgotten ancient burial ground.

Dongting Lake shriveled under a record-breaking severe drought over the summer of 2022. The nationwide drought was China’s worst in 60 years, the Institute of Archaeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said in a Thursday, March 16, news release via China News Network.

While doing a field survey on one of Dongting Lake’s islands, local authorities stumbled upon the ruins of an ancient tomb. They alerted cultural authorities who sent archaeologists to investigate the find, the release said.

Archaeologists excavated the site on Lianhua’ao Island and uncovered nine tombs and five ash pits, officials said. The tombs had a rectangular design, long and skinny, with some graves placed side-by-side.

An aerial view showing the arrangement of two tombs at the site.
An aerial view showing the arrangement of two tombs at the site.

The burial site was poorly preserved but still held a few treasures, archaeologists said. Stone axes from the Neolithic age were unearthed. Photos show the worn-down stone tools.

The Neolithic age began in about 10,000 B.C., according to Britannica. The Lianhua’ao Island site and its weathered tombs were at least 12,000 years old, archaeologists said in the release.

Artifacts uncovered with the tombs.
Artifacts uncovered with the tombs.

The site, however, was also inhabited much more recently.

Archaeologists found porcelain from the Tang and Song dynasties. These dynasties ruled China in close succession beginning in 618 A.D. and continuing until 1279, according to Britannica. Photos show the white fragments of several bowls decorated with a delicate, pale blue design.

Blue-green pottery from the Ming and Qing dynasties was also uncovered, the release said. These dynasties ruled one after the other from 1368 until the early 1910s, according to Britannica.

Archaeologists did not specify the exact ages of the pottery found near the tombs.

Lianhua’ao Island is in the southern portion of Dongting Lake, located about 680 miles southwest of Shanghai.

Google Translate and Baidu Translate were used to translate the news release from the Institute of Archaeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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