The skeleton of a giant panda has been found in a 4,000-year-old tomb in central China, Xinhua news agency said Wednesday, adding that the now-endangered animals were apparently being hunted at that time.
Wu Xianzhu, of the Hubei Provincial Archaeology Research Institute, said pigs and dogs had been used in burials as “funerary objects” since the early New Stone Age, dating back about 8,000 years.
“Burying the giant pandas with the dead shows that ancient people had close contact with the creatures,” he was quoted as saying.
The No. 77 tomb, in the Guanzhuangping Ruins of Zigui County, is the only tomb to have been found with panda remains.
“When the tomb was first excavated in 2001, the animal remains found were believed to be the bone of the lower jaw of a pig. But with further research, archaeologists decided that the bone belonged to a giant panda,” Wu was quoted as saying.
Panda bones had been unearthed from other ruins from the same period, indicating that pandas were hunted by human beings at the time, it said.
Pandas have boosted their numbers in the wild by almost half to about 1,600 in just a few years thanks to enlarged habitat and improved ecosystems, Xinhua said last month.