TAIYUAN, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese archaeologist has accidentally discovered a 1,500-year-old mini-statue hidden in a small hole in the Yungang Grottoes in north China's Shanxi Province.
The small statue, which was seriously eroded, was found on the west side of the No.16 Cave by Wang Yanqing, a researcher with the Yungang Grottoes Research Institute, when he was surveying the caves during the institute's routine maintenance last year.
The statue is 20 centimeters high, and the small hole where it was hidden is 11.5 meters above the ground. It depicts a half-length figure with wide shoulders and a muscular chest and abdomen, with two arms outstretched.
The carving style was similar to statues in the No.18 Cave and had a history of 1,500 years, Wang told Xinhua.
"We guess the statue was carved by the craftsmen who cut the hole. Due to its stealthy location, it was concealed when the wooden beams of the protective structures of the statues were plugged into the hole," he said.
The original beam structures of the No. 14 to No. 20 caves were later burned.
According to Wang, the newly-discovered statue was not included in the known statues of the site.
The Yungang Grottoes in Datong City boast more than 51,000 statues with the largest 17 meters high and the smallest 2 cm high. It was listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 2001.