Archaeologists have unearthed what they say are the skeletal remains of a warrior who might have served one or more warring lords when China was breaking apart into three warring kingdoms about 1,800 years ago.
Buried in a tomb with domed roofs, along with his wife, he was about 45 years old when he died. Their skeletal remains were found inside two wooden coffins that had rotted away.
Archaeologists don't know their names but, based on the tomb design and grave goods, they believe he was a general who had served one or more of the country's warring lords, perhaps Cao Cao and his son Cao Pi.
His tomb was discovered in Xiangyang, a city that, in the time of the Three Kingdoms, was of great strategic importance.
Rescue excavations started in 2008 and now the discovery is detailed in the the journal Chinese Archaeology.
The rescue operation, carried out by the Xiangyang Municipal Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, uncovered many treasures in the tomb. One of the biggest finds was a life-size bronze horse, the largest ever found in China,
which is 5.3 feet long and 5.3 feet tall.
"The horse figurine is in standing posture, has erected ears, protruded eyes, opened mouth, long and broad neck,
upright mane and drooped tail," archaeologist Liu Jiangsheng was quoted as saying by LiveScience.
The tomb also held a highly detailed glazed pottery model of a two-story mansion surrounded by an enclosing wall with a gateway. The gate has two main doors decorated with a door knocker ring and two "feathered" human figurines. Bear motifs were found in many decorations on the house.
Pottery houses like these are known from the preceding Han Dynasty, although detailed multi-story houses are rare.
According to Qinghua Guo, a professor at the University of Melbourne, such models are helpful in reconstructing what
houses in ancient China may have looked like.
"Literary descriptions of the buildings of ancient China lead us to believe it had a highly developed architecture, but actual remains are rare and fragmentary," Guo wrote in a book on pottery buildings of Han Dynasty in China.
The Three Kingdoms period is one of the most celebrated periods of Chinese history. It witnessed the end of the
400-year-long Han Dynasty and the emergence of the kingdoms of Wei, Wu and Shu.