Washington, Jan 30 : Archaeologists have excavated a 2,500-year-old tomb full of nearly four-dozen victims of human sacrifice and a treasure box full of precious artifacts.
The tomb was discovered in January 2007 after police caught looters plundering the site in the province of Jiangxi, said Xu Changqing, who heads the excavation team.
Changqing said that the burial chamber was constructed for the patriarch of an aristocratic family and contains 47 dead buried side by side.
Among the most impressive artifacts found in the tomb is a black, gold, and blood-red sword inscribed with pictures of dragons.
Changqing described it as "the most beautiful and best-preserved sword ever found in this part of China."
Also discovered among the dead were gold and bronze artifacts, along with elaborate silk gowns.
But the most startling discovery was that "most of those buried had been sacrificed to accompany their master into the afterlife," said Changqing.
Some aristocrats arranged for the sacrifice of their servants, their concubines, or others closest to them upon their death so they could travel together into the next life, he said.
"At that time, some ruling elite believed that they could lead afterlives similar to their lives here on Earth," National Geographic quoted Changqing, as saying.
The Jiangxi tomb is "one of the most important archaeological finds from this era in this part of China," he added.