In the tomb, discovered at the site of future construction in the Chinese city of Sanmenxia (Henan Province), archaeologists found a bronze vessel, the upper part of which is made in the shape of a swan. Inside the vessel – more than three liters of unknown fluid.
The design of the tomb indicates that it was built between the late Qin dynasty (221–207 BC) and the early Han dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD). In addition to the swan vessel, an iron sword, a bronze cauldron and a ladle, and jade jewelry were found in the tomb. The inventory is rich enough to bury a titled official, but too modest for a member of the royal house.
In 2018, in the city of Luoyang, 140 kilometers east of Sanmenxia, during the excavation of the tomb of the Western Han Dynasty, one of the finds was a bronze lamp in the form of a goose. To determine which particular waterfowl the current vessel represents, archaeologists invited Gao Zhui, a senior veterinarian from the Sanmenxia Wetland Sanctuary, to consult. “The appearance resembles a mute swan,” he said, adding that the swan is easy to distinguish from a goose by its longer beak. Archaeologists suggest that ancient masters observed swans to make the vessel so realistic in shape.
In the tomb of Luoyang, a vessel with liquid was also found. At first it was suggested that this is a rice wine used in the funeral rituals of the Han Dynasty. But analysis showed that this is a rarer find – a mixture of potassium nitrate and alunite, which was supposed to serve as an elixir of immortality. What is the liquid in the quinoa vessel, remains unknown. It is darker than the elixir from Luoyang. Its color is yellowish brown, and sediment is noticeable at the bottom of the vessel. According to scientists, it smells like earth. The fluid was sent to a laboratory in Beijing for analysis.