Why This Tang Dynasty Noblewoman Was Buried With Donkeys
Wed, April 21, 2021

Why This Tang Dynasty Noblewoman Was Buried With Donkeys

 

The domestication of donkeys began between 3,000 and 4,000 B.C., when they were largely used to pick up trash in Eurasia, but also routinely used in war, ceremonies, and social events. Fiona Marshall, an archaeologist at Washington University in St. Louis, explained that these animals play an integral role in helping small farmers and traders. Aside from that, they have also been used in sport: a version of polo called Lvju.

 

Credits: All That’s Interesting

 

Thus, when archaeologists found donkey remains in ancient noblewoman Cui Shi’s tomb in Xi’an, China in 2012, they were surprised because it was unusual that a woman of such status would be buried among lowly animals like this. “There was no reason for a lady such as Cui Shi to use a donkey, let alone sacrifice it for her afterlife. This is the first time such a burial has been found,” Songmei Hu, lead study author and Shaanxi Academy of Archaeology anthropologist, said. 

 

Credits: All That’s Interesting

 

But, after learning the historical background behind it, the team concluded that Cui Shi was an avid donkey polo player and wanted to be able to continue the game well into her afterlife. According to All That’s Interesting, a site for curious people who want to know more about what they see on the news or read in history books, women from that the Tang dynasty loved to play donkey polo. The sport was very popular during the Tang dynasty, which spanned from 618 to 907 A.D.

 

Credits: All That’s Interesting

 

Emperors commonly used polo to asses their generals’ overall skills. And since horse polo can be dangerous, they opted to play donkey polo instead. Also, donkeys were considered steadier and more stable. To prove this, the researchers had to show that the donkey bones in her tomb were the same age as Cui Shi’s -- which was proven using radiocarbon dating. They also discovered that the donkeys’ patterns of strain in their bones were consistent with constant running and their skeletons were also smaller than normal donkeys. 

 

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