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Lost civilization along Silk Road, Astana Tombs

2013-07-26 13:28 cits.net Web Editor: Wang YuXia

Several kilometers to the south of Gaochang Ruin (a famous tourist attraction in Turpan, Xinjiang Autonomous Region) situated a huge graveyard named Astana, where buried past people of the Ancient Gaochang City. The graveyard covers an area of 10 square kilometers. People think Astana was specifically to be a Chinese graveyard since the writings, epitaphs and decorations found inside the tombs are mostly in Chinese. However, the tombs also houses small amount of figurines and interesting paintings depicting both Mongoloid and Caucasian people.

The history of Astana Tombs could be dated back to the middle of the 200s to the late 700s. With the prosperous of Silk Road trade in about 100 BC, people both from China and Central Asia started to settle down in the areas along Silk Road, thus Gaochang, an oasis city gradually became a center of the Silk Road Civilization. These people lived in Gaochang retained a common Chinese belief that the next world was like the life before death, so the tombs contain the things people need such as food, clothing, money, and shoes, or representations of these commodities in the form of figurines.

According to the archaeologists, those who buried in Astana include both important officials and common people. The tombs had a common style of construction similar to those of the Hexi Corridor in Gansu Province. Most have a sloping stairway about 4 to 10 meters in length, leading to a rock-cut door about a meter in width and more than a meter in height. Inside the tombs, the deceased were wrapped in textiles. They were usually placed in coffins made of wood. Some of the corpses had coins on their eyes. These coins were of Byzantium or Chinese origin or copies of such coins. Tombs were usually arranged according to family generations.

Astana Tombs is of great historical value and archaeological value. What make Astana Tombs more mysterious are two ancient mummies and a series of artwork, including different kinds of books, manuscripts and paintings of ancient funerary banner. The paintings depict Chinese myth about Nuwa and Fuxi, who created the world in the Chinese ancient myth.

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