Archaeologists said Friday they had unearthed a group of tombs in remote western China that date back about 2,500 years.
The tombs were believed built by the ancient Zoroastrians and were discovered in the high-altitude Pamirs Plateau near the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said.
The Zoroastrian religion is one of the earliest in recorded history and originated in ancient Persia. Scholars consider it a significant influence on the so-called Abrahamic religions of the Middle East, which include modern Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Baha'i faiths.
China's Xinhua news agency said the newly excavated tombs were built on a platform with lines of black and white stones arranged alongside like the rays of the Sun. "The ray-like stone strings like sunshine and the black-and-white arrangement symbolize light and dark, good and evil," said expedition leader Wu Xinhua. "They are basic elements in Zoroastrian theory and are clearly symbolic of Zoroastrianism."
Among the discoveries at the site were wooden so-called flame pots, which were in line with the Zoroastrians' worship of fire, and articles of cloth and bamboo believed to come from both eastern China and what is now Iran.
There were no remains found at the site, which would jibe with the ancient custom of reburying the dead after a period of time.