Sacrificed humans found in ancient Chinese tombs from the Qijia Culture

Sacrificed humans found in ancient Chinese tombs from the Qijia Culture

(Read the article on one page)

Archaeologists from Northwest University, China, investigating the ancient Qijia culture have discovered evidence of human sacrifice in tombs in North West China.

The ancient cemetery, consisting of hundreds of tombs, is around 4,000 years old, according to LiveScience. The cemetery is located on the site of the modern village of Mogou in North West China. This area was home to the Neolithic Qijia culture , which dominated the Upper Yellow River and survived into historical times. Some artifacts belonging to this society can be dated to as late as the 1 st century BC.

Evidence of the Qijia culture was first discovered in the 1920s by Swedish geologist Johann Gunnar Anderson in the village of Qijiaping. More discoveries were made by Chinese archaeologists Pei Wenzhong and Xia Nai during the 1940s and 1950s in nearby Yangwawan and Cuijiazhuang. Other Qijia sites were discovered in the Qinghai Province and the Hui Autonomous Region of Ningxia. The Qijia culture thrived during the transitional period from the Neolithic Age to the Bronze Age, between 2250 BC and 1900 BC. The society occupied the upper reaches of the Taohe, Daxia and Weihe rivers in Gansu and also in the Huangshui basin in the upper reaches of the Yellow River in Qinghai. One Qijia community was struck down by an unknown prehistoric disaster in which those strong enough to flee quickly escaped leaving their children and the elderly behind. Most of the tools they used were made of stone, but some copper artifacts have been found as well as a cast bronze mirror. Other finds include carefully crafted ceramics and personal items.

Bronze mirror, Gansu. Qijia culture (2400 - 1900) National Museum of China, Beijing. Phot by Prof. Gary Lee Todd. 2012.

Bronze mirror, Gansu. Qijia culture (2400 - 1900) National Museum of China, Beijing. Phot by Prof. Gary Lee Todd. 2012. ( en.wikipedia.org)

The Mogou cemetery is located on a terrace above the southwest bank of the Tao River, between Lintan County and Minxian County. It is 1000 meters (3280 ft) long west to east and over 3000 meters (9842 ft) wide north to south, covering an area of more than 30 hectares (74 acres). The cemetery itself is situated in the north east corner of the site, consisting of 351 graves. Most of the burials are orientated towards the northwest, mostly in pits with others in shaft pits, some of which have side chambers containing pottery shards alongside the bodies of the deceased. Some of the remains are joint burials with families buried together, often consisting of three to five people. The site has been subject to archaeological excavation since 2008 with subsequent excavations in 2009 and 2011.

Cultural deposits and remains from Middle & late Yangshao period, Majiayao, Qijia and Shiwa Cultures have been found.

The Gansu Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics & Archaeology and the Center of Heritage and Archaeology Studies in Northwest University have jointly conducted an excavation at Mogou site within a submerged area in Jiudianxia reservoir, from July to November 2008. Cultural deposits and remains from Middle & late Yangshao period, Majiayao, Qijia and Shiwa Cultures have been found.   (history.cultural-china.com)

Human sacrifice seems to have been prevalent among the Qijia, with most of the victims being female. Animal bones have also been discovered, particularly those of pigs. Researchers have assumed that these have some ritual significance and may have been divination bones .

Bronze axe & copper knife, Qijia Culture, Gansu. National Museum of China, Beijing, 2011.

Bronze axe & copper knife, Qijia Culture, Gansu. National Museum of China, Beijing, 2011. Photo by Prof Gary lee Todd. ( Wikimedia Commons )

Northwestern University Professor Chen Honghai has previously discussed the Qijia culture in some detail in a chapter of A Companion to Chinese Archaeology edited by Anne Underhill. The archaeologists report has also been published in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics .

Featured Image: The skeleton pictured is that of a female adult who was placed facing toward the northwest was discovered among the prehistoric tombs alongside many other skeletons in China. Much of her skeleton below the abdomen area is much destroyed. ( news.discovery.com)

By Robin Whitlock

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Myths & Legends

A vase-scene from about 410 BC. Nimrod/Herakles, wearing his fearsome lion skin headdress, spins Noah/Nereus around and looks him straight in the eye. Noah gets the message and grimaces, grasping his scepter, a symbol of his rule - soon to be displaced in the post-Flood world by Nimrod/Herakles, whose visage reveals a stern smirk.
The Book of Genesis describes human history. Ancient Greek religious art depicts human history. While their viewpoints are opposite, the recounted events and characters match each other in convincing detail. This brief article focuses on how Greek religious art portrayed Noah, and how it portrayed Nimrod in his successful rebellion against Noah’s authority.

Human Origins

Sumerian creation myth
Sumer , or the ‘land of civilized kings’, flourished in Mesopotamia, now modern-day Iraq, around 4500 BC. Sumerians created an advanced civilization with its own system of elaborate language and...

Ancient Technology

All images courtesy of Dr Rita Louise
The vajra is the most important ritual implement of Vajrayana Buddhism. In Sanskrit, the word vajra is defined as something hard or mighty, as in a diamond. It symbolizes an impenetrable, immovable and indestructible state of knowledge and enlightenment.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article