WENQUAN, Xinjiang, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- A settlement consisting of nearly one hundred tombs and ruins of residential structures has been unearthed in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, offering a glimpse into nomadic life during the Bronze Age.
The center of stone ruins features a uniquely designed residential structure, Professor Cong Dexin, leading archaeologist for the excavation project, said Thursday.
Carbon dating results given by the CHRONO Center at Queens University show that the settlement dates back 3,700 to 3,900 years, putting it in the Xia Dynasty (2070 - 1600 BC), the first dynasty in China to be described in ancient documents.
"The ruins of the structure are the first of their kind to be found in Xinjiang," said Cong, who is also a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
The structure was found to contain skeletons of animals, as well as charcoal and cellars, leading archaeologists to believe it may have been used for rituals.
Ten more similar structures were also discovered in the area.
The settlement is located north of the Bortala river and south of the Qagan Usu pass at Mount Alataw, which borders Kazakhstan.
About 90 tombs containing human remains and bone ash have been discovered at the site, with some containing sacrificial items like bronzeware and pottery. The stones used to build the tombs are believed to weigh as much as one tonne, although it is not known how the nomads were able to cut and carry the stones.
"The tombs and ruins of residential structures are contemporaneous. This is the only archaeological site in Xinjiang where one can see dwellings for the living and the deceased at the same time," said Cong.
Although none of the tombs are newly discovered, large-scale scientific excavation and research for conservation purposes did not start until June.
Cong and his colleagues are planning to continue excavation and research at the site next year.
"Hopefully, we'll find out more about the mysteries of ancient nomads in northwest China," he said.
Existing records of nomads living in the area date back about 3,200 years.