A 1,700-year old ancient cemetery that contained multiple tombs has been found along the Silk Road in the northwestern Chinese city of Kucha. The tombs which contain the skeletal remains of the former occupants were also decorated with mythical carvings that represented the parts and seasons of heaven.
One of the tombs that hold particular interest for archaeologists was marked “M3”, and it features the carvings of four mythical totems that represented the seasons and parts of heaven – these are probably equivalent constellations of the western zodiac astronomy. The first carving represented the Black Turtle of the North, the second was the Vermilion Bird of the South, the third the Azure Dragon of the East, and the fourth the White Tiger of the West.
The tomb marked “M3” features impressive brick structures, and it was found to contain about 10 tombs. Archaeologists reported that the tomb,”consists of a burial mound, ramp, sealed gate, tomb entrance, screen walls, passage, burial chamber and side chamber.”
Some of the tombs have been reused a number of times with as much as 10 skeletal remains found in one tomb. It is not possible to really identify the occupants of these ancient tombs, but this is understandable because the archaeologists discovered proofs that the tomb had been robbed a number of times in the past – with the robbers probably carting away any written documents or proofs of who human remains were.
Kucha happened to be along the Silk Road that connected Xiyu, China’s western frontier to the West and ontoward to Europe. But then, the Silk Road was only part of a network of roads in the Taklamakan Desert of China’s Tarim Basin, linking Eastern Asia with the Middle East and then Europe.