Intricate 3,100-year-old bronze ritual bowls stolen during a war between two Chinese dynasties are found in a tomb next to the skeleton of a Zhou warrior
Stunning bronze 'soup bowls' and other cooking pots have been discovered inside a 3,100-year-old tomb in China.
The food vessels, which are covered intricate designs, were found alongside a badly decomposed body believed to belong to a Zhou warrior chief.
Along with other relics found at the site, dubbed Tomb M4, the 'tureen' style dishes are thought to have been the spoils of war, taken from the rival Shang dynasty.
This photo shows a tureen, a vessel that is often used to serve soup. It has four handles and 192 spikes on it
Researchers from the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology in China made the discovery in Baoji City.
Around 57 tombs were found during excavations that started in 2012.
Construction workers uncovered bronze vessels while they were building houses in the area, leading archaeologists to take interest.
Bronze 'soup bowls' and other cooking pots have been discovered inside a 3,100-year-old tomb in China
Experts believe many of the vessels were used in religious or burial rituals, rather than for eating.
Their quality suggests the person buried inside the tomb was of noble status.
In an article published in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics, Zhankui Wang, who led the dig, said: 'The occupant of Tomb M4 was most likely of elite status, and could potentially be a high ranking chief or the spouse of a chief.
Experts believe the food vessels, which are covered intricate designs, was found alongside a badly decomposed body believed to belong to a Zhou chief
'After conquering the Shang dynasty, the Zhou king distributed the plundered war spoils to the military officers with great achievements, and these spoils usually included bronze vessels.'
The Zhou dynasty followed the Shang dynasty and preceded the Qin dynasty and lasted longer than any other in Chinese history.
Along with other relics found at the site, dubbed tomb M4, the soup bowl is believed to behave been part of the spoils of war, taken from the rival Shang dynasty
The Zhou and Shang dynasties co-existed for many years, before falling into fighting in the 11th Century BC.
The military control of China by the Ji royal house lasted from 1046 until 771 BC for a period known as the Western Zhou.
Centralised power decreased throughout the Spring and Autumn (770 to 476 BC) and Warring States periods (475 to 221 BC).
The discovery was made in Baoji City, where around 57 tombs have been found during excavations that began in 2012. Construction workers uncovered bronze vessels while they were building houses in the area, leading archaeologists to take interest
During these eras, the Zhou court had little control over constituent states that were at war with each other until the Qin state consolidated power and formed the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC.
The Zhou Dynasty had formally collapsed only 35 years earlier, although the dynasty had had only nominal power at that point.
The bowls and other items include a four-handled tureen, which were often used to serve soup.
It is decorated with 192 spikes, as well as engravings of dragons, birds and 24 images of cows.
Two separate wine vessels shaped like a deer were also found inside.
A few of the vessels hold inscriptions that include the names of different Shang clans.
The Zhou may have seized the bronze vessels during the war and given them to the person who was buried in the tomb,