Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Friday, November 28, 2003
Ancient Khitan nobleman 'reborn' on computer screen
The facial features of an ancient Khitan nobleman of the Liao Dynasty (916 - 1125), restored from skeletal remains, have vividly appeared on the computer screen of the Frontier Archeology Center of Jilin University in northeast China's Jilin Province.
The facial features of an ancient Khitan nobleman of the Liao Dynasty (916-1125), restored from skeletal remains, have vividly appeared on the computer screen of the Frontier Archeology Center of Jilin University in northeast China's Jilin Province.
The skeleton was unearthed in March from a well-preserved tomb, which was decorated with colorful paintings, on Mount Tugaljin in northern China's Infner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
The archeologists then opened a 1,000-year-old coffin, revealing a body covered in an eight layered silk blanket and wearing a necklace, bells around the ankles and a metal-studded mask and helmet, which was believed to be the remains of a nobleman of the Liao Dynasty founded by the Khitan ethnic group.
In August, the Archeology Institute of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region authorized the frontier archeology center of Jilin University to conduct research on physical anthropology, ethnology, facial image restoration and DNA testing on the skeleton.
Based on several months' hard work, a three-dimensioned facial reconstruction of the nobleman was achieved.
On the screen of the computer, the facial image was well defined with a long face, short and narrow forehead, small narrow eyes, thin lips, prominent cheekbones and a flat nose.
The nobleman also has headgear, including two tiny braids decorated with some gold chips, a bowknot coiled at the rear of the head, eardrops with beryl studs and an agate necklace.
"The main racial characteristics of the nobleman are identical with the research conducted before on the Khitan, though the nobleman was not good looking," said Zhu Hong, director of the frontier archeology center.
According to Zhu, who is also the vice president of the literary school under the Jilin University, the material data unearthed from the tomb, including clothes, headgear, eardrops and necklace, supplied rare and accurate information for the restoration work to the skeleton.
In the past, such work was based on cultural relics discovered from other tombs, he said.
Besides the facial reconstruction, the research also includes age and sex identification, and race analysis.
The research showed that the nobleman was a 1.6 m tall and aged30 to 35, which was different from the earlier estimation of a 20-year-old and 1.56-m tall female.
And it was still hard for the archeologists to accurately tell the sex of the nobleman though the head portrait had been restored via computer, said Lin Xuechuan, the key expert on the restoring team.
The conclusion from the race analysis that the nobleman fell into the Mongol ethic group in north Asia fit in perfectly with the earlier verdict made by the archaeologists.
The DNA testing on the ancient Khitan is still underway. It was the first time Chinese scientists had carried out physical anthropology and DNA testing on an ancient Khitan.
In May, the center successfully extracted DNA from the brain of an ancient human excavated from the Laoshan Han Tomb of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220).