Chinese archaeologists have identified a tomb within which a young woman has been squatting for 13,500 years.
The tomb, part of the Qingtang ruins in southern China’s Guangdong Province, hosts a female aged between 13 and 18, who was placed in a squatting posture with her head missing for unknown reasons.
It has been confirmed as the oldest tomb found in China whose owner’s body was deliberately placed in a specific posture, said Liu Suoqiang, who heads the Qingtang ruins excavation project.
Apart from the squatting posture, the discovery of burial items, including a bone pin, inside the tomb suggests burial practices at that time already followed a set of procedures and rituals, said Liu, a senior researcher with the Guangdong Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology.
“It (laying the dead in a certain posture) points to the emergence of the concepts of life and death and of primitive religious beliefs,” Liu said.
The practice of burying the dead in a squatting posture has been found in prehistoric tombs in southern China and southeast Asia, a major difference from northern China where early tomb owners were usually found lying on their backs with stretched limbs.
Archaeologists are still debating on the symbolism of the squatting posture, with some suggesting it was a simulation of a baby in the womb.
Liu said they were also studying whether the women’s head was missing due to natural causes or was removed before the burial rite for some reason, an assumption that needs proof from more discoveries of similar tombs.
The Qingtang ruins, whose excavation finished earlier this year, has been listed as one of the top 10 Chinese archaeological discoveries in 2018.
Archaeologists have found pottery fragments dating back about 17,000 years ago at the site, providing more proof that southern China might be the first region where pottery was ever produced.