Archaeology breakthrough as ‘celestial calender’ unearthed from 2,000-year-old tomb | Science | News

A mysterious set of wooden pieces with connections to an ancient celestial calendar has been uncovered by Chinese researchers.

The 23 wooden strips were unearthed from a preserved 2,000-year-old grave in the Wulong district of southwestern China.

Each one measures around an inch wide and four inches long and has inscriptions of Chinese characters linked to the “Ten Heavenly Stems and 12 Earthly Branches” system.

The traditional Chinese astronomical calendar tracked time through cyclical combinations of ten celestial stems and twelve earthly branches.

It was made during the Shang dynasty that ruled China from 1600 BC to 1045 BC.

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One of the wooden pieces might reveal the year when the tomb was first sealed, archaeologists have said.

The other 22 slips may have been used to represent other exact years from the calendar, suggesting they might have been a tool for chronometers.

Ed Krupp, an astronomer and the director of the Griffith Observatory who was not involved in the Wulong discovery, told Live Science: “The wooden slips with calendric notations are significant as the first and only known example of that kind of inscription on that kind of object.”

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The strips were among more than 600 cultural artifacts that had been uncovered from the ancient Wulong district site earlier this year.

Other finds included lacquerware bowls, boxes, jars, bamboo utensils, plates, musical pipes, spears, and cooking tripods.

According to Krupp, the finds from the Wulong tomb indicate that a person of high status had been buried there.

He said: “The artifacts interred with the deceased are numerous and very, very fine.”


“This is rich, expensive material.”

Archaeologists also found a written list of all the burial items from the site, which revealed that the tomb was built in 193 B.C.

This was during the time the Western Han dynasty ruled over China, which controlled large parts of the country between 206 BC and 9 AD.


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