In northwestern China, an ancient collection of chariots dating back over 2,000 years ago has been uncovered in a tomb. Among the collection, there was an “exceptionally rare” sheep-drawn carriage.
Archaeologists found the chariots at the mausoleum of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. The site is located near the city of Xi’an.
According to Jiang Wenxiao, the archaeologist leading the excavations in the tomb, the structure of the sheep-drawn carriage had deteriorated long ago, but the bones of six sheep remained, all lined up in a row. Lying on top of the sheep skeletons were accessories used to pull chariots.
From their observations, the team of archaeologists concluded that this particular chariot was hauled by sheep.
In ancient China, carriages hitched to horses or oxen were a familiar sight. However, sheep-drawn carriages were not so commonplace.
They have made appearances in Chinese lore and history, though. Emperor Wu, or Sima Yan, founder of the Western Jin Dynasty, was said to have ridden in a sheep-drawn carriage around his palace grounds every night and slept wherever the sheep stopped.
Emperor Wu ruled between 266 and 290 A.D., which was considered the earliest account of sheep-drawn chariots in history.
But now, the most recent discovery from the mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang, who ruled between 221 and 210 B.C., has become the oldest of its kind ever to be found.
After conducting a complete laboratory analysis of the tomb’s burial chamber, the archaeology team hopes they will be able to learn who was buried there.