100 horse skeletons have been found in a 2,400-year-old burial site next to the Lord’s tomb in ancient China

A 2,400-year-old pit containing the remains of horses and chariots believed to belong to a member of an ancient royal household has been uncovered in China.

The pit is one of a cluster of tombs thought to hold the remains of noble families of the Zheng State, who ruled the region intermittently between 770 and 221 BC.

Excavation of the surrounding land has already found 18 large pits containing horses and chariots and more than 3,000 tombs.

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A 2,400-year-old pit containing the remains of horses and chariots believed to belong to a member of an ancient royal household has been uncovered in China. This image shows a researcher examining one of the chariots

THE ZHOU DYNASTY

The Zhou dynasty followed the Shang dynasty and preceded the Qin dynasty and lasted longer than any other in Chinese history.

The military control of China by the Ji royal house lasted from 1046 until 771 BC for a period known as the Western Zhou.

Centralised power decreased throughout the Spring and Autumn (770 to 476 BC) and Warring States periods (475 to 221 BC).

During these eras, the Zhou court had little control over constituent states that were at war with each other until the Qin state consolidated power and formed the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC.

The Zhou Dynasty had formally collapsed only 35 years earlier, although the dynasty had had only nominal power at that point.

Archaeologists made the discovery near the city of Xinzheng, in central China’s Henan Province.

Four chariots and the skeletons of more than 90 horses have been unearthed from the pit since February.

It is the largest of three pits within a group of tombs that have been recently excavated, according to reports in Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency.

Ma Juncai from the provincial cultural heritage and archaeology institute, who led the excavation, told Xinhua: ‘As the main tomb has been looted and no written records have been found yet, it is difficult to identify the tomb owner.’

More than 100 horses are believed to buried in the pit, where a number of Bronze artefacts have also been uncovered.

Experts say these reveal details about the technology and production methods used at the time, as well as the social status of the family and funeral practices of the period.

Although it is not yet know exactly who the tomb belonged to, it is believed that three of the chariots were for everyday use by a Zheng State Lord and his wife.

One of chariots in particular stood out from the rest, as it is larger and more extravagantly adorned, suggesting a more ceremonial function.

It is around eight feet (2.56 m) long and five and a half feet (1.66 metres wide).

The pit is one of a cluster of tombs thought to hold the remains of noble families of the Zheng State, who ruled the region intermittently between 770 and 221 BC. Experts inspect the site

Excavation of the surrounding land has already found 18 large pits containing horses and chariots and more than 3,000 tombs.

It also featured rain and sun protection and was decorated with bronze and bone artefacts.

It is thought that the horses were killed before being placed into a pit beside the owner’s tomb, and dismantled chariots would then be laid on top.

Centralised power, held by the Zhou Dynasty over thousands of years, decreased throughout the Spring and Autumn (770 to 476 BC) and Warring States periods (475 to 221 BC), when the Zheng State rose to take power.

Four chariots and the skeletons of 90 horses have been unearthed from the pit since February. This image shows the remains tagged for later analysis

The pit is the largest of three within a cluster of tombs that have been excavated in the region so far

This is not the first time that such burials have been uncovered.

In 2011, archaeologists painstakingly uncovered the almost 3,000-year-old remains of horses and wooden chariots in a Zhou Dynasty tomb in Luoyang, Henan Province, around 75 miles (120 km) away.

The pits also contained well-preserved evidence of bronzeware and ceramics from the Early Western Zhou dynasty.

More than 100 horses are believed to buried in the pit, where a number of bronze artefacts have also been uncovered. Here, archaeologists inspect the remains

Experts say the artefacts and remains (pictured) reveal details about the technology and production methods used at the time, as well as the social status of the family and funeral practices of the period

It is thought that the horses were killed before being placed into a pit beside the owner’s tomb, and dismantled chariots would then be laid on top

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