Archaeologists unearth China’s ‘oldest gold object’, a funeral mask


Archeologists have found a gold funeral mask that is believed to be approximately 3,000 years old. It was discovered in a tomb in the ancient noble city of Zhengzhou in central China.

Given that modern treasures are typically made of bronze and jade, the piece is thought to be the oldest gold object ever discovered in central China. Unlike gold masks unearthed at ancient Shu civilization sites in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, the mask from China’s Central Plains culture is large enough to cover a person’s complete face.

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Speaking to China News Service, Huang Fucheng, a researcher at the Zhengzhou Municipal Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology disclosed that the gold mask is large enough to cover an adult’s entire face at 7.2 inches (18.3 cm) long and 5.7 inches (14.5 cm) wide and weighs 1.4-ounce (40 grams).

The gold mask was discovered among the ruins of a Shang dynasty (1600 BC–1046 BC) tomb in Shangcheng county, Henan province.

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Talking to Henan Broadcasting System Gu Wanfa, director of the Zhengzhou Municipal Research Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology said that the gold mask was probably meant to keep the deceased’s spirit whole and may have represented that they possessed an “imperishable gold body” reported SCMP.

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“There has been a saying about bubaijinshen, or an imperishable gold body, since ancient times in China. [The gold mask] proves that the concept had existed since the Shang dynasty,” he said.

As per Chen Lüsheng, deputy director of the National Museum of China in Beijing, the recently discovered Zhengzhou tomb is a major discovery for research into the Shang Dynasty’s burial customs and may potentially offer fresh insight into the beginnings of Chinese civilization.

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