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Donkeys facilitated trade and transport in much of the ancient world, but were seldom used in elite or leisure activities. While Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907) texts indicate that noble women played polo riding donkeys, this has never been documented archaeologically. Here, the authors present the first archaeological evidence of the significance of donkeys for elite Tang women through analyses of donkey remains recovered from the tomb of a Tang noblewoman in Xi'an, China. These findings broaden our understanding of the donkey's historic roles beyond simple load bearing.
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