CHENGDU, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- Archaeologists have found five exquisite copperware pieces close to a rare boat-shaped coffin that dated back at least 2,000 years in southwest China's Sichuan Province.
The finding was quite accidental but supported experts' hypothesis that the owner of the tomb had been a nobleman, said Long Teng, a researcher with the cultural heritage institute of Pujiang County on the outskirts of the provincial capital Chengdu.
"We were more interested in what could be inside the mysterious boat coffin," he said, "but the copperware buried outside the coffin was surely a surprise because they were as precious as gold in the ancient times."
The copperware, including two cauldrons, two kettles and a pot, were found neatly lining up close to a boat-shaped coffin in Pujiang. Each was engraved with exquisite graphics and remained intact. The largest one, a copper kettle, is 40 centimeters high.
"It's a miracle they have remained intact after so many years -- and our test results showed the soil is slightly acidic," said the researcher.
Next to the copperware is a seven-meter long, 1.4-meter wide wood coffin that resembles a canoe -- the third to be found in the county in the past four weeks.
The other two coffins also produced some bronze pieces: spears, knives, rings, swords and helmets, and plant seeds which ancient Chinese superstitiously believed would bring them affluence in the other world.
A renowned historian in the county has related the coffins with a battle fought there in 316 B.C., when the king of the Shu Kingdom was defeated and killed by the troops of the Qin Kingdom.
The Pujiang County was part of the Shu Kingdom, which remains a mystery because no written record about its history and culture is available today.
"The weapons and helmets suggested the owners of the coffins could be warlords, but they had to be aristocrats to be able to enjoy luxuriant bronze items," said Yang Xiaojie, chief editor of the county's chorography.
Excavation of the tombs is continuing.