Archaeologists have excavated 112 tombs in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, three of which are believed to be the oldest tombs in the region, Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology announced Tuesday.
The three tombs, one of which contains the remains of a husband and wife, are believed to date back to the early Bronze Age more than 4,900 years ago, according to Ruan Qiurong, researcher with the institute.
"The discovery can push the origin of the Bronze Age culture in Xinjiang's Ili River Valley back more than 1,000 years," said Ruan.
In addition to the three tombs, other tombs are believed to date back to the time ranging from the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 B.C.) to the Han Dynasty (202 B.C.-220 A.D.).
Ruan said that the tombs had been severely looted by raiders. Archaeologists only found 96 cultural relics, including bronze wares, ironware, bone objects and pottery, during the two-month excavation.
The position of the human remains in the tombs drew the interest of the archaeologists. Some were lying with bended legs, while others lay on their sides with bended legs.
Ruan said that the posture was related to burial customs at the time.
Archaeologists will compare the new discovery with similar tombs found along the lower reaches of the Ili River in Kazakhstan to study the cultural exchange between China and the West in the early period.
The tombs were discovered by construction workers when building a highway in Xinjiang's Nilka County in May.