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Woman embracing a child, Lajia Ruins Museum. Source: Chinanews

4,000-Year-Old Chinese Earthquake Victims Captured in their Final Moments


The victims of an earthquake that struck the Chinese community of Lajia in Qinghai Province on the Upper Yellow River were put on display by the Lajia Ruins Museum in 2015. It’s a scene that the China People Daily says brings tears to the eyes of visitors as victims are seen huddling together in terror, while women are embracing young children in an attempt to protect them.

Like the victims of Pompeii, the Roman city overcome by the explosion of Vesuvius in 79 AD, the residents of the building in Lajia are preserved in sudden brutal death. While the humanity of the Pompeiians is preserved by the casing of volcanic ash and mud, in Lajia the full horror is brutally apparent in their skeletal remains.

Bronze Age Disaster

The disaster was caused by a mudslide triggered by an earthquake which crushed a Bronze Age building including all those inside. It was a family home within which the occupants sought refuge in the hope of survival. The remains of a woman and child, probably a boy, are preserved against one of the walls. The woman’s skull looks upwards as her arms encircle the child. Another woman and child can be seen upstairs in a similar posture while the skeletons of two children clinging to an adult lie against another wall. The people here belonged to China’s Bronze Age Qijia culture, which means their remains are 4,000 years old, the earthquake hitting the area around 2,000 BC.

The victims keletons are scattered throughout the room. (Chinanews)

The victims keletons are scattered throughout the room. (Chinanews)

Pompeii of the East

The unfortunate town of Lajia has now been branded the “Pompeii of the East”. Similar to Pompeii,  the entire Lajia site provides a snapshot in time due to the sudden disaster, which preserved artifacts and features of the Neolithic village as they were at the moment of the catastrophe. This has allowed archaeologists a rare glimpse into the everyday life and practices of the people of the Qijia culture.

Artifacts found at the site have included mirrors, stone knives and oracle bones used for divination. The residents of Lajia were first discovered in 2000 in a subterranean dwelling which was later found to be the base of a loess cave, one of several in a settlement in which the dwellings consisted both of caves and houses. One of the artifacts turned out to be the oldest noodle in China, made from wheat flour. A sacrificial platform in the center of the town contained the grave of its priest surrounded by numerous jade objects.

Woman shielding a child, Lajia Ruins Museum. (China News)

Woman shielding a child, Lajia Ruins Museum. (China News)

The Qijia Culture

The Qijia culture was an early Bronze Age culture that existed in the upper Yellow River region in China from approximately 2200 BC to 1600 BC. Named after the Qijiaping Site in Gansu Province where the first artifacts were discovered and identified, this culture is noted for being one of the earliest in China to smelt bronze, signifying an important transition period from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age. The Qijia culture is known for its pottery, which often has a painted exterior and a black or reddish-brown burnished interior. Houses of the Qijia culture were usually partially underground pit-houses, and their society was likely clan-based, with livestock being a significant part of their economy. The Lajia archaeological site is one of the most significant Qijia culture sites. The Qijia culture played a significant role in the early development of the broader cultural and technological landscape in ancient China.

The haunting visage of the Lajia victims, frozen in their last moments of life, serves as a stark reminder of the power and unpredictability of nature. However, their preservation has provided archaeologists and historians with an invaluable opportunity to delve into the past and understand the daily life, practices, and culture of the Bronze Age Qijia people. Lajia, the "Pompeii of the East", stands today as both a poignant memorial to those who perished millennia ago and a beacon of knowledge, shedding light on a significant period in China's history.

Top image: Woman embracing a child, Lajia Ruins Museum. Source: Chinanews

By Robin Whitlock



All comparisons aside from Pompei, this is another tragedy PERPETRATED upon Humanity. When you see the video taking Youtube by storm, called: There are No Forests on (Flat) Earth, you will understand what i mean. The video is Earth shattering to anyone who THINKS they are aware and awake, but devestating to those who have been sleeping while 'thinking' they are awake!

Hope you take the time to watch this revelation of a movie. The Russian author of this Youtube video will be coming out with a much anticipated Part 2.

This movie discloses the FACT that WE have all been duped, snookered and naive for far too long & it's time we stop pretending we are children. I.E. Volcanoes are NOT what we thought, or were told, they are!! Prepare yourself.

This article need an informative link to Qijia culture.

The Qijia were apparently displaced and driven east as happened repeatedly in Chinese history. It is ironic that such suffering benefits us now.

Robin Whitlock's picture

Yes I agree with much of that actually

Momma Honey Badger's picture

I agree that the Chinese government should not be making comparisons between the two civilizations, as rly the only out right similarities are a volcano erupting and the utter decimation of ancient peoples. In the end, the world  has been left the rare opportunity to piece together those last horrific moments and hopefully take something from it that may hopefully better safeguard the people of today and in the generations to come.

I had a discussion abt this article with a friend of mine and of course we did some comparisons abt their similarities and differences and in the end she ended up at deciding that had she had no choice but to perish in either Pompeii or Lajia, she would have chosen Pompeii. And I think it was more about the amazing way the citizens of Pompeii were so well preserved from the ash and how detailed so many of the dead were. I think she felt as though they had died in a more humane manner because of being able to so easily read the emotions on many of their faces all these years later.

But honestly, even though the people found at Lajia are quite likely to give a far greater raw and emotionally stunned initial reaction, i would think that their deaths would be the least painful and terrifying or drown out of the towns, would they not? They ppl of Pompeii asphyxiated, they just got swallowed up by the ash and had time to contemplate their fates, hear some of the chaos around them. They had to feel the weight coming down on them and hear their loved ones cries.. It must of been pure hell. But with the skeletal remains found at Lajia, I would think the majority of the dead had to of perished quickly, if not instantaneously. They obviously had enough time to try and be that shield for their children and such, but the mass hysteria of trying to find an escape route or boats to get away or to try and find that safe place within their town that wouldn't of existed… they didn't have that much time to mourn their own fates and the fates of those they loved. And it didn't happen by stages or layers or what have you. From what I gathered reading this article they probably had just enough time to pull their kids into their arms before they died. And that's what I would of fathered.

I totally agree Ron, the Chinese government should not be comparing these two tragedies to each other whatsoever! But they should make their history better known. And educate the world on a very tragic occurrence from within their country and as was done for Pompeii, make sure these peoples death had some kind of meaning. Make sure the coming generations know that these tragedies were not a one time thing, get people interested in our world's history and inspire the next generations of archeologists, scientists, historians and explorers! There's still so much to be discovered no matter what corner of the world you're in...

Robin Whitlock's picture

That’s probably true, but its an interesting insight into the terror inflicted on ancient peoples by natural disasters nonetheless.



Robin Whitlock's picture

Robin Whitlock

Robin Whitlock is a British freelance journalist with numerous interests, particularly archaeology and the history of the ancient world, an interest that developed in childhood. He has numerous published magazine articles to his credit on a variety of subjects, including... Read More

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