Trip to the Zhou: Remains of horses and chariots unearthed from tomb dating back to 3,000-year-old Chinese dynasty
Last updated at 7:52 AM on 2nd September 2011
It could have been as early as 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ that these horses were moved on to greener pastures - and no-one has laid eyes on them until now.
Archaeologists have painstakingly uncovered the almost-3,000-year-old remains of horses and wooden chariot in a Zhou Dynasty tomb in Luoyang, Henan Province, China.
The completed excavation unearthed four horse-and-chariot pits, dating back to as far as 770BC.
The pits have well-preserved evidence of bronzeware and ceramics from the Early Western Zhou dynasty.
Though a far smaller tomb than the famous 'terracotta army' found in 1974 in the Lintong District, this find has been undisturbed while buried - not suffering the ravages of grave robbers.
Archaeologists believe that the tomb belongs to an official of some renown during the dynasty - pottery, metal weaponwry and inscriptions are consisted with a man of mid-level importance.
Apart from the artifacts themselves, the tomb is an exciting discovery for historians, as it provides unquestionable insights into the funeral customs in the early Western Zhou dynasty.
The unearthed tomb is a vertical earthen pit tomb, which is very common in that period.
Because of the ancient nature of the site, the traditionally wooden coffin and body within have long-since carbonised.
But the most valuable discovery by far is the complete set of chariots and horses of all different shapes and sizes.
Animal lovers can at least breathe a small sigh of relief - archaeologists say the side-lying nature of the horse remains show that the animals were slaughtered before burial, and not entombed alive.
At the time of this official''s death, large-scale irrigation projects were being instituted across China, and the nation's writing system was being further developed.
It was also the time of the great Chinese philosophers of antiquity, including Confucius, Mencius, and Zhuangzi.
Many nearby tombs have fragments of the Luoyang find, but most have been emptied of their funeral relics by thieves.