Over 1,000 Amazing Relics Unearthed at China’s Sanxingdui Ruins

Archaeologists exploring sacrifice pits in a 3,000-year-old ruin have unveiled a Chinese treasure hoard consisting of over 1000 relics of supreme cultural importance. However, the most important artifact in this Chinese treasure hoard is a singular, and massive bronze figure. It has been deemed important enough that the site is applying for UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Status.

The Sanxingdui Ruins in Southwest China's Sichuan Province are not only the most famous archaeological discovery in China, but according to a recent Global Times article, “in the world.” First discovered in 1929, the Sanxingdui site, which dates back to the Bronze Age, represents the largest elite site ever found in the Sichuan Basin.

Now, archaeologist exploring the site’s ancient sacrifice pits have unearthed a Chinese treasure hoard of enormous value, including hundreds of ivory and bronze artifacts, and a massive bronze god statue that is so important that the entire site might be given world heritage status.

Though not from this year’s Chinese treasure hoard, this Sanxingdui Ruins site bronze head wearing a gold foil mask is considered to be exceptional, and of great importance. (momo / CC BY 2.0 )

The Chinese Treasure Hoard: Ivory, Bronze, Gold and Jade

Dating back to the Xia (c. 2,070 BC-c. 1,600 BC) and Shang (c. 1,600 BC-1,046 BC) dynasties, the discoveries at Sanxingdui have been featured in an animated film, several documentaries, books and computer games.

As of May 2020, “534 important cultural artifacts” made of ivory, bronze, gold and jade ware have been unearthed from the site. Furthermore, around 2,000 broken relics, including a gold mask, were found in a series of six sacrificial pits.

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As if this priceless Chinese treasure hoard wasn’t enough for one year, in Pit 3, a “1.15 meters [3.8 feet] high, 3,000-year-old bronze figure was discovered with a zun, (ancient wine vessel) on top of the head.” According to Global Times, this single artifact is being described as an “unprecedented cultural relic,” on a global scale.

This bronze altar previously unearthed at the Sanxingdui Ruins site consists of 3 levels: the bottom level is a circular base bearing a pair of fabulous animals, on the second level are 4 standing human figures supporting hills on their heads. The top level is a four-sided structure adorned with human figures and human-headed birds. The 3 levels probably represent the vertical order of man, earth and heaven. (momo / CC BY 2.0 )

Learning From The Sacred Bronze Statue’s Dragon Zun Vessel

Tang Fei, dean of the Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics and Archeology Research Institute, told the Global Times that his team has now removed almost all of the ivory relics from the pits and they are now focusing on the rare bronze statue. The upper part comprises a 55-centimeter-high (22-inch-high) broad mouthed bronze zun drinking vessel with dragon-shaped decorations , while the lower part is a 60 centimeter-tall (22-inch-tall) kneeling figure with something in its hands.

Further bronze-made relics were found buried underneath the layer of ivory relics , and Dr Tang told CCTV on Friday that these bronze figures reflect “sacrifice in the spiritual world of the ancient Shu civilization.” For this reason, he calls the discovery of the statue “a national treasure-level cultural relic.”

Already, as a result of the excavations of these sacrifice pits at the Sanxingdui Ruins site, archaeologists now know that fine silks were votively offered by members of the ancient dynasty, Tang said.

As of late May 2021, more than 1,000 important cultural relics have been unearthed at the Sanxingdui Ruins. This newly discovered golden mask from the site is under restoration, officials said at a recent global promotion event. ( Global Times )

Tracing The Origins Of The Chinese Relic Makers

The Sanxingdui civilization was located in the Huaxia Fringe zone and as early as the Neolithic period it was connected with Qinghai-Tibet Plateau cultures . Later the region was connected with the ancient Silk Road to the northwest, therefore it was also connected with the coast of China.

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Dr Tang says the ancient Sanxingdui civilization has the characteristics “of the integration of Eastern and Western civilizations” and he theorizes that the culture was most likely based on the traditional Central Plains civilization and its prominent Bashu culture, as well as being influenced by the other ancient civilizations that surrounded it.

China often gets a bad rap for its draconian social control and inability to work with the rest of the world, but in this instance, according to Zhu Yarong, deputy curator of the Sanxingdui Museum, relics from the Sanxingdui Ruins are to be found in 21 countries.

And now, in a further display of international spirit, the Sanxingdui Ruins will soon become a major new “international tourism site” said Luo Qiang, vice-governor of Sichuan Province.

  • Researchers announce discovery of priceless artefacts at an archaeological site in China's Sichuan province
  • More than 500 cultural relics like golden mask fragments and bird-shaped gold ornaments were unearthed
  • Experts think it's possible that the artefacts were ritually burnt and buried by an as-yet-unknown civilisation

Published: 14:14 BST, 24 March 2021 | Updated: 14:14 BST, 24 March 2021

A 3,000-year-old gold ceremonial mask, possibly worn by a priest and used for sacrificial purposes, is one of more than 500 items unearthed from six rectangular pits in China.

The priceless cultural relics – unearthed at the Sanxingdui archaeological site in the province of Sichuan, southwest China – also include bird-shaped ornaments, two kinds of silk and a bronze statue adorned with depictions of 'beasts'.

Only about half of the gold mask is still fully intact, but experts believe it is around 84 per cent pure gold and in its original state weighed close to 500 grams (one pound).

Researchers who began digging at the site in 2019 said most of the 500 items were crafted out of gold, bronze, jade and ivory, according to the South China Morning Post.

They believe the pits may have been used for sacrificial purposes by members an as-yet-unknown civilisation, and that the objects now found within them were ritually burned before being buried.

A partial gold mask unearthed from the Sanxingdui Ruins site in southwest China's Sichuan Province. Chinese archaeologists announced Saturday that some new discoveries were made at the Sanxingdui Ruins site in southwest China

The findings were shared in a blog post by the government of Chengdu, which is the capital of southwestern China's Sichuan province.

Sanxingdui is a well-known archaeological site and tourist hotspot outside of Chengdu.

The mask and the other exciting new findings will 'help deepen the understanding of the cultural relationship between the Chengdu Plain and the surrounding areas', according to officials, although much mystery still surrounds the golden mask.

'At present, it is inferred that this golden mask is also used for sacrifice, but because it is much larger than a human face, it is unlikely to be worn by a person,' said an unnamed expert cited in the post.

The gold mask seen here in the ruins, was among more than 500 relics found in prehistoric Sanxingdui - a well-known archaeological site and tourist hotspot outside of the city of Chengdu

Over 1,000 Amazing Relics Unearthed at China’s Sanxingdui Ruins - History

Global Times life reporter, covering culture, art and entertainment.

Deemed one of China's most famous archaeological discoveries in the world, the Sanxingdui Ruins site in Southwest China's Sichuan Province on Friday revealed newly unearthed artifacts: a 3,000-year-old bronze figure holding a zun, a wine vessel in ancient times, on top of the head, with the height of 1.15 meters.

A total of 534 important cultural relics including ivory, bronze, gold, jade ware and nearly 2,000 pieces of broken cultural relics including another gold mask found in the eighth pit have been unearthed from six sacrificial pits of the Sanxingdui Ruins as of late May, and the bronze figure was discovered at the third pit.

Officials revealed the latest achievements of the Sanxingdui archaeological excavation at a global promotion event in the Sanxingdui Museum on Friday.

The bronze figuring holding a zun vessel on top of the head can be seen as an "unprecedented" cultural relic not only in China but also in the world. UNESCO sent congratulations for the stunning new discovery through a video.

The figure is composed of two parts, the upper part being a 55 centimeter-high bronze zun with a big mouth and welded with exquisite dragon-shaped decorations, and the lower part a 60 centimeter-tall bronze figure with a kneeling posture seemingly holding something in his hands. The bronze figure reflects the spiritual world of the ancient Shu civilization sacrifices, and is a national treasure-level cultural relic, CCTV reported on Friday.

The archaeological team has almost finished its work to extract all the ivory relics at the third and fourth areas of the site, and are carrying out further research, including the DNA of ivory relics, Tang Fei, dean of the Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics and Archeology Research Institute, told the Global Times.

"As the bronze-made relics are buried under the ivory relics, the next stage for us is to excavate the bronze ware. But it is still unknown how long that will take as it depends on the integrity of the relics," said Tang, adding that they could extract four to five relics per day if the relics are complete, while one fragile or incomplete bronze relic might take two to three days.

"The latest achievement at the Sanxingdui Ruins site is we have confirmed that the silk relics were used in sacrificial offerings in the ancient dynasty," Tang said.

Organized by the State Council Information Office, the National Cultural Heritage Administration and the Sichuan Provincial People's Government, the global promotion event for the Sanxingdui Ruins also aims to introduce the great culture to the world to enhance exchanges and learning between Chinese and other civilizations.

An international project to promote Sanxingdui culture has been launched, including the animated film Gold Mask, documentaries, books and games themed on the Sanxingdui Ruins.

"Sanxingdui Ruins will become an international tourism site after the completion of the Sanxingdui Ruins Park, and we are preparing to apply it as a world cultural heritage site with the Jinsha site in Chengdu, Sichuan Province," said Luo Qiang, vice-governor of Sichuan Province.

According to Zhu Yarong, deputy curator of the Sanxingdui Museum, exhibits from Sanxingdui Ruins have been held in 21 countries, covering five continents. But during the post-COVID-19 era, the exhibits of the current discoveries will be mainly held in digital form.

As of late May, more than 1,000 important cultural relics have been unearthed at the Sanxingdui Ruins, and a newly discovered golden mask is under restoration, officials said at a global promotion event on Friday.

Compared with Troy

First discovered in 1929, the Sanxingdui Ruins site, which dates back to the Bronze Age over 3,000 years ago, has been the source of one pleasant surprise after another following decades of digging and archaeological research. It is the largest and highest-ranking centralized site ever found in the Sichuan Basin, and is believed to date back to the Xia (c.2,070 BC-c.1,600 BC) and Shang (c.1,600 BC-1,046 BC) dynasties.

In March, Chinese archaeologists unearthed more than 500 relics in six ancient sacrificial pits, stunning archaeologists and history buffs in China and the rest of the world. The cultural relics included a mysterious bronze mask, a more than 2-meter-tall bronze statue, and a mask made of gold, giving modern people a peak into the ancient cultures that existed in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River.

Huo Wei, dean of the School of Archaeology, Culture and Museum at Sichuan University and curator of the Sichuan University Museum, told the Global Times on Friday that the archaeological discoveries of Sanxingdui Ruins will become one of the most famous archaeological discoveries in the world.

"The academic value of the Sanxingdui Ruins site to the history of Chinese bronze culture can be compared with the value of the Troy and Nineveh site, which has great significance to the origins of early European civilization," said Huo.

According to Huo, the Sanxingdui civilization has a unique contribution to the origin and formation of Chinese civilization. For example, the 112 bronze wares that were excavated from the two sacrificial pits in 1986 showed that people living in the ancient kingdom of Shu not only made some similar artifacts that imitated the bronzes of the Central Plains area of China, but also had another hierarchy and worshiping system which can be seen in their relics including a gold mask, bronze standing figure and bronze tree that are totally different with those from the Central Plains area of China.

"The discovery of the Sanxingdui Ruins site has greatly enriched the cultural connotation of the origin and formation of Chinese civilization. For the first time, people realize that besides the ritual system represented by the rigorous and standardized bronze wares in the Central Plains area of China, there were also some alternative ways, similar to the Bronze Age of Eurasia, in expressing people's worship and beliefs," said Huo.

He said the Sanxingdui civilization was likely based on the traditional Central Plains civilization and the prominent Bashu culture, and it also extensively absorbed certain factors from other ancient civilizations around it. It had the characteristics of the integration of Eastern and Western civilizations.

From a geographical perspective, the Sanxingdui civilization was located in the so-called "Huaxia Fringe" zone. It had a fixed transportation route with the ancient Silk Road to the northwest, and the road in its south led directly to South Asia, Southeast Asia, and all parts of the coast of China. It even had contact and connections with the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau as early as the prehistoric Neolithic period.

"The openness and tolerance of the ancient kingdom of Shu with the outside world provided the Sanxingdui civilization with a lavish cultural environment," Huo said.

Over 1,000 Amazing Relics Unearthed at China’s Sanxingdui Ruins - History

Situated 40km north of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, the Sanxingdui site covers 12 sq/km and contains the ruins of an ancient city, sacrificial pits, residential quarters, and tombs. Recently, more than 500 artefacts dating 3,200 to 4,000 years old, including gold masks, bronze items, ivory, jade, and textiles, have been unearthed from six newly discovered ancient sacrificial pits.

Sichuan archaeologists discovered the six sacrificial pits in the Sanxingdui site area between October 2019 and August 2020. Following the approval of the State Administration of Cultural Relics, the Sichuan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology initiated archaeological excavations in these six sacrificial areas, starting September 2020. The new pits sit next to two sacrificial pits first discovered in 1986. They are rectangular, with areas ranging between 3.5 sq/m and 19 sq/m. Together they form an area in which people of the ancient Shu civilization offered sacrifices to heaven, earth and their ancestors, and prayed for prosperity and peace.

More than 30 institutions have participated in the latest round of excavation work, featuring the use of modern technologies and integration of excavation and preservation. Scholars believe the site was established between 2,800 and 4,800 years ago, and the archaeological discoveries show that it was a highly developed and prosperous cultural hub in ancient times.

New discoveries and the process of excavating will later be displayed to the public. Hailed as one of the greatest archaeological findings in the 20th century, the site will make an ideal and exciting destination for lovers of archaeology and history. For inspiration for your next trip to China’s Sichuan Province, explore our dedicated China ebook.

Thousands of amazing artifacts have been discovered in China’s Sanxingdui Ruins

New artifacts have been discovered at the Sanshingdui excavation site in southwest China’s Sichuan province, described as one of the world’s most famous archaeological discoveries, including a 3000-year-old bronze figure holding a 1.15-meter-high ancient wine pot on its head.

Sanxingdui is an early Bronze Age archaeological culture found in the Chengdu area. It is named after the site of Sanxingdui in Guanhan County, Sichuan Province. Sanxingdui is located 7 kilometers west of the county center on the southern bank of the Mamuhe River.

As of late May, a total of 534 important cultural relics, including ivory, bronze, gold, jade and nearly 2,000 broken cultural relics, including another gold mask found in chamber eight and a bronze figure found in chamber three, had been discovered in the six sacrificial pits of the Sanxingdui ruins.

The bronze figure holding a zong vessel on its head can be considered an “unprecedented” cultural relic not only in China, but also in the world. The figure consists of two parts, the upper part is a 55 centimeter high bronze tzong with a large neck decorated with exquisite dragon-shaped drawings, and the lower part is a 60 centimeter high bronze figure with a kneeling pose, seemingly holding something in her hands.

The archaeological team has almost finished the work of extracting all the ivory relics in the third and fourth sections of the site and is conducting further research, including DNA analysis of the ivory relics, said the dean of the Sichuan Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute.

“Since the bronze relics are buried under the ivory relics, the next step for us will be to excavate the bronze ware. But it’s not yet known how long that will take because it all depends on the integrity of the relics,” Tang said, adding that they can extract four to five relics a day if the relics are intact, while one fragile or incomplete bronze relic could take two to three days.

First discovered in 1929, the Sanxingdui ruins, dating back to the Bronze Age more than 3,000 years ago, offer one pleasant surprise after another after decades of excavation and archaeological research. It is the largest ancient site ever found in the Sichuan region and is believed to be from the Xia (c. 2,070 B.C.- 1,600 B.C.E.) and Shang (c. 1,600 B.C.- 1,046 B.C.E.) dynasties.

In March, Chinese archaeologists discovered more than 500 relics in six ancient sacrificial pits, startling archaeologists and history buffs in China and around the world. Among the cultural relics were a mysterious bronze mask, a bronze statue more than 2 meters tall and a mask made of gold, giving modern people a glimpse into the world of ancient cultures that existed in the upper Yangtze River.

“The academic value of the Sanxingdui site for Chinese cultural history may be comparable to that of the sites of Troy and Nineveh, which are of great importance to the origins of early European civilization,” Huo said.

Historians pay attention to the fact that the composition of bronze used in products from Sanshindui differs significantly from bronze known from artifacts of Shang-Yin culture. There is a difference in the proportions of the main components: copper, tin and lead, as well as in the composition of additives. The Sanshindu bronzes are characterized by higher content of iron (up to 3.42 %), nickel (up to 1.32 %), phosphorus (up to 2.12 %), silicon (up to 0.9 %) and aluminum (up to 0.34 %). But they do not contain bismuth, arsenic and antimony, which are characteristic of Yin bronzes. The bronze weapons from Sanxingdu use an alloy with high copper content (87 to 98.4 percent), whereas Yin bronzes, which can have more than 26 percent lead and tin impurities, are used. As a result, Sanshindu weapons were more durable. The high skill of Sanshindu residents is evidenced by their ability to smelt thin-walled products and hollow pipes.

Researchers believe that Sansingduys managed to have a significant impact on the Chinese metallurgy of the kingdom of Shan – Yin. They attribute the progress of Yin bronze production, which occurred in the XIII century BC, to this influence. The ornamental tao-te motif on Yin bronzes, similar to the anthropomorphic images from Sanshindui, is considered evidence of this influence.

But why did the Sanshindu civilization disappear? It was quite successful and well-developed and existed for nearly two thousand years: the latest finds date from about 1200 – 1100 years BC. Archaeologists have determined that the time of the decline of Sanxingdui coincides with the emergence of the Jinsha culture, discovered by scientists in 2001. It is close to Sanshindui both geographically (the archaeological sites are about 50 kilometers apart) and in material culture. Apparently, the capital of the Shu kingdom (if we accept the hypothesis that Sanxingdui was that capital) was moved around 1200 BC.

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Over 1,000 Amazing Relics Unearthed at China’s Sanxingdui Ruins - History

Chinese archaeologists have unearthed hundreds of artifacts at an archeological site in the southwestern Sichuan province, providing glimpses of an ancient civilization dating back more than 3,000 years.

Over 500 relics found in Sanxingdui, including gold and bronze mask fragments as well as ivory and jade items, were unveiled over the weekend, according to the National Cultural Heritage Administration. This is the largest finding at the ancient site in more than 30 years, since the first major excavation began in 1986.

Zhao Congcang, a professor of archeology at Northwest University in Shaanxi province, told Sixth Tone that although the site was discovered almost a century ago, it wasn’t until a major excavation in 1986 that the historical findings drew wide public attention. At that time, more than 1,000 relics were unearthed from two pits — including a standing bronze figure, a bronze mask, and a 3.95-meter-tall bronze “tree of life” now on display at the Sanxingdui Museum.

“It will be of great academic significance for research to determine the age of the Sanxingdui Civilization, its cultural context and characteristics, and its origin and flow,” he said, referring to the recent discoveries.

In 1987, Chinese academics had proposed the name “Sanxingdui Civilization” to describe the discoveries, surmising that the ruins date from the late Xia dynasty to the Shang and Zhou dynasties.

In light of the recent discoveries, Sixth Tone takes a closer look at the Sanxingdui Ruins.

A fragment of a gold mask recently found at the Sanxingdui Ruins, Guanghan, Sichuan province, March 17, 2021. Xinhua

What are the Sanxingdui Ruins, and why are they important?

Located in the city of Guanghan, some 40 kilometers north of Chengdu, the Sanxingdui Ruins are home to several artifacts from the Shu Kingdom, an ancient state in what is now Sichuan province. It is known to be the largest centralized site ever found in the region, dating back to the Xia (2070 B.C.-1600 B.C.) and Shang (1600 B.C.-1046 B.C.) dynasties.

The archaeologists say they have also discovered evidence of a walled city at the site that they believe was founded contemporaneously during the Shang dynasty.

“(The discoveries) can provide valuable empirical evidence for an in-depth study of the exchange between ancient Chinese and extraterritorial cultures, as well as their role and position in the global history of human cultural development,” Zhao said, adding that the Sanxingdui Civilization has a “significant connection” with the origin of Chinese civilization.

The discovery of Sanxingdui dates from 1929, when a farmer unearthed a cache of jade relics in Guanghan. The world didn’t realize the scale of the Sanxingdui Ruins until 1986, when archeologists discovered thousands of gold, jade, bronze, and pottery artifacts in the first sacrificial pit. However, due to limited excavation technology in the late ’80s, many of the artifacts weren’t properly preserved.

Since the opening of the Sanxingdui Museum in 1997, the site has attracted millions of visitors. Bronze heads with gold foil masks and the bronze tree of life are among the museum’s prized items. Last year, several domestic museums including Sanxingdui Museum offered livestreamed tours after people were advised to avoid unnecessary travel because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In July, archeologists also discovered what is believed to be a 5,000-year-old settlement near Sanxingdui. One of the findings, a pottery pig, became a talking point on social media due to its uncanny resemblance to a character from the hit mobile game Angry Birds.

Lei Yu, head of the Sanxingdui archaeological work station, gives a speech in Guanghan, Sichuan province, March 20, 2021. People Visual

What are the recent discoveries?

The artifacts unveiled Saturday are from excavation work that started in November 2019. Local archeologists have discovered six new sacrificial pits at the site in addition to the two found in 1986.

Findings included fragments of a gold mask — about 23 centimeters wide and 28 centimeters tall — which have become the pièce de résistance of the current excavation. According to the leader of the excavation team, the whole mask is expected to weigh over 500 grams and could be “the heaviest golden object from that time period.”

Zhao, the professor, described the mask as a “rare, dazzling treasure.” He added that another discovery, a carving on a mung bean-sized piece of ivory, could perhaps be one of the earliest instances of Chinese “micro-carving art.”

More than 100 ivory items were unearthed in the recent excavation. A large number of ivory pieces had also been discovered in the previous excavation, though many couldn’t be well preserved, according to domestic media.

Another finding was the site’s never-before-seen silk. Such discoveries are believed to help researchers understand Sichuan’s importance as a key source of goods along the Silk Road after the Western Han dynasty (206 B.C.-25 A.D.), state-run Global Times reported, citing an unnamed expert.

Sun Hua, a professor at Peking University’s School of Archaeology and Museology, told domestic media that the eight pits were filled in around same time, and the discovered relics could be sacrificial artifacts from the same temple.

“If this conjecture is true, then this archaeological discovery could provide new support for restoring the entire temple’s ritual space, religious system, social structure, philosophy, and cosmology from that time,” he said.

A bronze sculpture on display at the Sanxingdui Museum in Guanghan, Sichuan province, Sept. 6, 2020. People Visual

What’s new in this excavation?

According to Ran Honglin, who is in charge of the current excavation project, the work has been a joint collaboration between experts from Peking University, Shanghai University, and Sichuan University, and the archaeologists have adopted modern technology to complete the project.

This time, the team used “archeological cabins” erected over the pits to control the excavation site’s temperature and humidity levels. They have also helped minimize the amount microorganisms and bacteria that workers introduce to the site, which can damage the artifacts.

This excavation is also one of the few that has been livestreamed to the public, with millions watching it from their electronic devices in real time.

How has the public received the recent discoveries?

The significant national and international media coverage is likely to aid Sanxingdui’s local tourism in the future. Du Yu, a guide at the Chengdu Museum, said he noticed an influx of tourists visiting the museum’s Sanxingdui bronze statue over the weekend.

“Many museums around Chengdu are going to benefit from all the public attention from the new Sanxingdui discovery,” Du told Sixth Tone. “This demonstrates public interest in the culture and civilization of the ancient Shu Kingdom.”

Since Saturday’s announcement, more than 5,000 people have visited the Sanxingdui Museum daily, twice the average weekend footfall. Many online have also said they would be willing to visit the museum and see the newly unearthed artifacts.

Meanwhile, the excavation has taken a twist on Chinese social media, with many users slamming state broadcaster China Central Television for inviting author Nanpai Sanshu, who writes about tomb raiders, to give his take on the recent discoveries. Experts and social media users have strongly suggested that linking archeology to tomb raiding — a serious crime in China — is unnecessary and misleading.

(Header image: Archaeologists unearth more than 500 cultural relics dating back some 3,000 years at the Sanxingdui Ruins in Guanghan, Sichuan province, March 20, 2021. People Visual)

Sanxingdui Discoveries Shed Light on Ancient China

Chinese archaeologists announced the discovery of over 500 cultural relics on Saturday, during an ongoing excavation at the Sanxingdui Ruins site in Guanghan, Sichuan Province.

The relics were uncovered in six sacrificial pits which date back over 3,200 years.

Among the important cultural finds are gold and bronze masks, bronze ware, more than 100 ivory tusks, textiles and jade among other artifacts.

"Thanks to the new discoveries, we've basically figured out the layout of the sacrificial zone of the Sanxingdui site," said Lei Yu, a researcher at the Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute who heads the ongoing excavation.

The about 12-square-kilometer site was discovered in 1929, and major breakthroughs were made in 1986 with the discovery of two pits believed to be for sacrificial ceremonies. The pits were accidentally uncovered by local farmers digging up earth to make bricks.

Over 1,000 artifacts were found at that time, including elaborately decorated bronze ware, face masks and "divine trees" &mdash bronze sculptures of trees with stretching branches.

Explaining to China Daily why the new round of excavations has come after a hiatus of decades, Lei said the previous excavations of pits No 1 and No 2 were made to rescue artifacts after the accidental discovery.

"Once the two pits had been cleaned, the urgency for further excavation did not exist," he said. "Archaeology cannot be hasty. We have to wait for the need for a well-planned academic purpose to take the initiative for more excavations."

Following an academic project aimed at more deeply understanding the ancient civilization in Sichuan Province known as Shu, whose historical records are lacking, investigations in the area around the No 1 and No 2 pits were restarted in October 2019.

The No 3 pit was then found in December 2019. Follow-up field research began in March 2020, and five more pits were uncovered. In October, ongoing and detailed excavations were started on all six pits.

The biggest among the six pits, the No 8 pit, is 19 square meters. The smallest, No 5, which covers 3.5 sq m, is where the most recent gold mask was found.

Lei pointed out there were many similarities among the more recently discovered pits and the two found in 1986, in terms of the types of artifacts unearthed. Divine trees and bronze masks were found once again.

The recent discoveries further confirm the theory that the pits were used for sacrificial purposes as many of the items found had been smashed and burned before being buried. Lei said that deeper study is needed to rule out any other speculation as to the pits usage.

Archaeologists study the No 3 sacrificial pit at the Sanxingdui Ruins in Guanghan, Sichuan Province, on Friday. [Xinhua]

Nevertheless, some new types of artifacts have been unearthed.

For example, in No 3 pit, a rich reservoir for bronze ware, archaeologists found two square zun jars, a typical ancient Chinese bronze ritual vessel, according to Lei. Such artifacts were not found in 1986. Some of the bronze ware items have been decorated with dragon and ox patterns.

In the No 6 pit, a 1.5-meter-long and 40-centimeter-wide wooden box covered in cinnabar has brought a new mystery. A plan to open it is still being drafted.

Other important items include decorative gold items in the shape of birds, ivory and bone carvings, silk and cong &mdash a jade artifact originating from the 5,000-year-old World Heritage Site Liangzhu Archaeological Ruins in Zhejiang Province, more than 1,800 kilometers away.

"These artifacts show the Sanxingdui site had a close connection with Central China, but it also marks an original ancient civilization (in Sichuan) with strong creativity," said Chen Xiandan, a member of the project who also took part in the 1986 excavation.

For interdisciplinary research at Sanxingdui, 34 research universities and research institutes are cooperating on the ongoing project. To better conserve the unearthed relics and analyze the findings in time, separate excavation structures cover each of the pits, and laboratories with high-tech equipment are on-site. No such approach has been used previously for archaeological excavation in China.

"Conservation of the relics is processed simultaneously with the archaeology," Lei said. "The focus is not only put on the artifacts. We don't want to miss any information hidden in the soil."

Song Xinchao, deputy director of the National Cultural Heritage Administration, said the ongoing scientific research at Sanxingdui sets an example for Chinese archaeology in the new era.

"It's an open platform to combine nationwide efforts for academic issues," Song said. "We'd like overseas teams to join the research as well."

Lei expects the findings at Sanxingdui will help to create a system for studying the Shu civilization, combining research at nearby sites in Sichuan.

The Sanxingdui study is listed as a part of a long-lasting program called Archaeology China, that was launched by the National Cultural Heritage Administration focusing on early-stage Chinese civilization.

"Being put in a bigger picture, Sanxingdui will contribute to our exploration of how Chinese civilization was formed mixing different cultures together," Song said.

"Sanxingdui and sites in Central China reflect some shared cultural values, breaking down the barriers brought by long geographic distance," said Zhang Changping, an archaeology professor at Wuhan University. "Such cultural identity created a foundation for a united country of China in a later time."

The latest discoveries at Sanxingdui have generated great public interest. From Saturday to Tuesday, a two-hour livestream broadcast on the archaeological site is being organized for each day. On social media platform Sina Weibo, three out of the top 10 most searched topics on Saturday were about the Sanxingdui Ruins.

Giants were here. In using the term giants, I am referring to persons at least 7 feet (2.1m) and up to 13 feet (4m) in height. Given that pre-modern man was significantly shorter on the average than we are today

Was This Silver Coin Hoard Found In Poland Part Of A King’s Ransom?

Archaeologists in Poland have unearthed a coin hoard from the early Carolingian dynasty in a field in the remote north-east of the country. The coin hoard treasure indicates a connection between the ancient Viking trade center at Truso and the Carolingian dynasty to the south, but that might not be the whole story.

The silver coin hoard was discovered near the town of Biskupiec, and the rare coins were minted around 1,200 years ago. The size of the hoard of this type is unprecedented in Poland, and it is suspected they represent part of a historic king’s ransom paid to save Paris from a Viking invasion.

European History and the Unusual Polish Coin Hoard

The Carolingian dynasty, built by the Franks, a group of Germanic peoples, existed between 750 and 887 AD. Although not the first Carolingian, King Charlemagne, also known as “Charles the Great” took the dynasty to new heights of power, and the dynasty ruled over much of France, Germany, Switzerland and northern Italy in the eighth and ninth centuries.

Humans and Neanderthals Met and Mated 50,000 Years Ago in Negev Desert

A recent re-examination of artifacts collected from Israel’s central Negev desert has revealed important details about the development of human culture in the region, according to a new study published in the journal PNAS.

Pömmelte Ring Sanctuary Eclipses Stonehenge With Homes and Ghastly Burials

Scientists think an ancient astronomical observatory in Pömmelte, Germany will overshadow England’s famous Stonehenge in terms of archaeological data and the number of human burials.

Rare Inscribed Medieval Era Copper Plates Found at Srisailam Temple

Recently, a fabulous discovery was made that has greatly enriched the history of an already vibrant temple. Twenty-one medieval era copper plates have been unearthed by the Srisailam authorities at the Mallikarjuna Temple in India, which are dated to the 16th century, or even earlier. The plates were inscribed in the subcontinental languages of Sanskrit, Kannada and Telugu.

The entrance to the Shiva-devoted Mallikarjuna Temple in Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh, India. (Arpita Tripathy / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Why We Should Remember Menelaus, the King Lost in his Wife’s Shadow

Menelaus, the mythological king of Mycenaean Sparta, is perhaps best remembered as the husband of Helen of Troy. While lost in his wife’s shadow, his story is inexorably entwined with that of the Trojan War and the abduction of Helen, and he played a major role in both the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Chandragupta Maurya: Storied Founder of the All-India Mauryan Empire

Chandragupta Maurya was an ancient Indian ruler who lived during the 4th century BC. He was the founder of the Mauryan Empire and was the first person to have brought the majority of the Indian subcontinent under one ruler. Chandragupta Maurya established his empire shortly after the invasion of India by Alexander the Great.

Rare Lead Plate With Mysterious Text Rescued From An Iberian Dump

A unique lead plate covered with Iberian writing has been recovered from Pico de los Ajos (Yátova), one of the most important archaeological sites in Spain. Bent out of shape, with a mysterious religious message, this lead plate, a rare artifact, was discovered in an ancient metal recycling site nearby.

Scientific Evidence for the Many Myths of the Great Flood

Have you ever heard about Noah's Ark story? This story of the great flood is one of the most popular stories from the Bible. But it is far from the only great flood story to be found in history. Christians are quite familiar with Noah's story when God destroyed all of creation through the great flood owing to the wickedness of men. While many people perceive all this as the great flood myth, scientists have found evidence of the great deluge. Before going to the scientific evidence, let's take a look at the known mythologies that relate to the flood myth.

The Great Flood: Myths in the Bible, Hindu Texts and More

Noah's story in the Hebrew Bible is probably the most well-known myth relating to the great flood. However, a number of other myths related to this event also exist.

According to the Gilgamesh flood myth, Enlil, the highest god, decided to completely destroy the whole world by means of a great flood as the humans had increasingly become noisy. Ea, the god who created human beings of divine blood and clay, warned Utnapishtim secretly about the flood and gave him instructions to build a boat and be saved.

Libraries: The Legacies Of Ancient Bibliophiles

It can be argued of course, but a story has five important elements: the characters, the setting, the plot, the conflict and the resolution. These five essential narrative elements keep stories running smoothly and allow the action to develop in a logical way that readers can follow.

Maoris Credited With First Discovery of Antarctica in Latest Study

A new historical analysis has called into question the accepted story about the discovery of Antarctica. The continent was supposedly first seen by Russian and British explorers in the early 19th century.

Scottish Crannog Fire Wipes Out Recreated Iron Age House in Minutes

Overnight, 5,000 years of design skills that were invested in a recreated Iron Age house at the Scottish Crannog Centre in Perthshire, Scotland, have been engulfed in a fire. One onlooker said the Scottish crannog fire burnt everything to the waterline of the loch “in less than 6 minutes.”

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe: Take a Pilgrimage to the Basque Dragonstone

Overlooking the Atlantic waters of the Bay of Biscay, the 1,000-year-old hermitage of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is a magical place to visit in the Basque Country. Surrounded by striking cliffs, this itty-bitty islet can be found just 35 km (22 mi) to the east of Bilbao.

Gaztelugatxe, meaning “castle rock” in Basque, is not an easy place to visit. After hiking through breathtaking scenery, visitors have to traverse a double-arched stone bridge before climbing the 241 steps of a winding staircase up to a small shrine dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. Once there, the views of the surrounding area are stunning.

View down the 241 steps at the islet of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. (KseniaJoyg / Adobe Stock)

The Eventful Story of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

As with the entire coastline in the area, the islet itself has been created by the tireless Atlantic eroding the coastline to form tunnels, cliffs and arches of all shapes and sizes. Joined to the mainland by a stone bridge, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe rises up 150 meters (492 ft) above the sea offering a strategic view, an advantage that has ensured the island become the backdrop to certain key historic moments.

Rare Viking Embroidery Found in 1000-Year-Old Grave in Norway

A piece of textile fabric from a grave, dated to the Viking Age, has been found in southern Norway, dated to 850-950 AD. The grave of a woman was uncovered at Hestnes in southern Trøndelag county, during a spate of excavations in 2020, along with textile tools and a wool comb. The evidence suggests she was a textile worker. The dull brown 1000-year-old wool Viking embroidery fabric was found preserved on top of a turtle brooch.

“Those of us who work with textiles are happy if we find a piece of fabric that’s one cm by one cm. In this case we have an almost 11 cm textile remnant. Unearthing embroidery in addition is completely unique. Embroidered textiles from the Viking Age are something we know only from a few opulent graves, like Oseberg and Mammengraven in Denmark,” said archaeologist Ruth Iren Øien.

The brooch with the Viking embroidery textiles on top of it was found in a woman's grave at Hestnes in southern Trøndelag county during excavations in 2020. The grave has been dated to approximately 850-950 AD, which is the middle of the Viking Age. (Åge Hojem / NTNU University Museum)

7,000-Year-Old Seal Found in Israel Signed For Deliveries!

Not everyone is well versed with the name Tel Tsaf, a prehistoric village in the stunning Beit She’an Valley in North Israel. They may be now, as some 150 clay sealings, dating back to 7,000 years ago have been found in an excavation conducted by archaeologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In a study recently published in last month’s Levant, the purpose of the seals was found to be manifold – signing for deliveries being one of the primary functions.

The Seal Impression: Uses and Functions

Apart from other pottery and clay items, the seal impression fascinated the archaeology group the most, as unlike the other finds which were plain and without imprints, one had an impression with two distinct geometric shapes on them, as per The Jerusalem Post. It was borne out of a device that had the ability to stamp patterns onto softer materials like clay or wax, with the purpose of sealing the object.

Hannibal: The Carthaginian General Who Took on the Romans

Hannibal Barca was a Carthaginian general who lived between the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. He is perhaps best remembered for his military campaign against the Romans in the Second Punic War. Thanks to Hannibal’s capable leadership, the Carthaginians won several significant victories against the Romans, and succeeded in seizing parts of southern Italy.

The Carthaginians, however, were unable to score a decisive victory against the Romans. Moreover, the Romans changed their strategy in dealing with Hannibal, and eventually launched a counter-attack against Carthage, which led to their victory.

After the war, Hannibal remained an important leader in Carthage, but was later forced into exile by his enemies. He found refuge amongst Rome’s enemies in the east, though the Romans ultimately caught up with him. Instead of allowing himself to be taken to Rome as a prisoner, Hannibal committed suicide before he could be captured.

Hannibal was born in 247 BC in North Africa. His name, which is “Hanba’al” in his native Punic, means “Mercy of Ba’al”, Ba’al being a major Punic deity. Hannibal was the eldest son of Hamilcar Barca, a Carthaginian general.

Viking Family Members ‘Reunited’ After 1000 Years!

A genetic relationship, either as half-brothers or as an uncle and a nephew, has been established between skeletal remains of two men who died on opposite ends of the North Sea. Estimated to have been buried between 960 AD and 1020 AD, the two men from the same Viking family have finally been reunited at an exhibition at Denmark’s National Museum more than 1000 years later, after their DNA was found to be matching - and that too was by chance!

While the first skeleton was discovered in England, presumably a part of the migration of Danish people who went to work as farmers in England in the 9th century, the second skeleton was found in central Denmark – 900 kilometers (559.23 miles) away. The former of the two men was in his 20s and died due to the English king ordering a massacre of Danes settled in England, while the latter died in his 50s, with a series of blows on his skull suggesting that he was a Nordic warrior who was part of many battles, according to The Guardian.

Giant Water Tank In Italy Linked to Prehistoric Ritual Practices

Scientists applying a precise form of radiocarbon dating technology have successfully dated an important and mysterious below-ground monument located in northern Italy. The prehistoric water tank is obscure in its purpose, but the experts think they have it cracked.

Roman Law and Its Lasting Influence On the Legal System of Europe

During the creation of the mighty Roman Empire, between 753 BC and 1453 AD, the Romans not only created the political institutions of Roman governance, but they also set up a series of legal principals and procedures.

Medieval Winklepickers Really Were A Health Hazard, Study Shows

Pointy shoes or winklepickers worn by the upper classes caused a spike in bunions in medieval Britain, a study has found. Close your eyes and picture the classic court jester.

CGTN: China Unveils New Discoveries From Sanxingdui, Over 500 Items Unearthed

Chinese archaeologists announced on Saturday that some new major discoveries have been made at the legendary Sanxingdui Ruins site in southwest China, helping shed light on the cultural origins of the Chinese nation.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here:

Archaeologists have found six new sacrificial pits and unearthed more than 500 items dating back about 3,000 years at the Sanxingdui Ruins in Sichuan Province, the National Cultural Heritage Administration (NCHA) announced in the provincial capital Chengdu.

Over 500 precious cultural relics discovered

Ranging from 3.5 to 19 square meters, these six sacrificial pits, which were discovered from November 2019 to May 2020, are in rectangular shape, according to NCHA. Among them, pits No.3, No.4, No.5 and No.6 have been excavated to the utensil layer so far, while pits No.7 and No.8 are being backfilled.

Together they form an area in which people of the ancient Shu civilization offered sacrifices to heaven, Earth and their ancestors, and prayed for prosperity and peace, according to Tang Fei, head of the excavation team at Sanxingdui and chief of the Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute.

The discoveries have shown the distinctiveness of the Shu civilization and the diversity of the Chinese civilization, said Ran Honglin, another researcher with the institute.

In addition, over 500 pieces of important cultural relics have been unearthed from these six pits, including the fragments of gold masks, bird-shaped gold ornaments, gold foil, painted bronze head portraits, giant bronze masks, bronze sacred tree, ivory, fragments of exquisite tooth carvings, jade cong and jade tools.

A gold mask has been unearthed at the No.5 sacrificial pit. With an area of about three square meters, it is the smallest pit, but it's where the most gold pieces were unearthed, according to archaeologists.

During the process, archaeologists have made full use of modern scientific and technological means to build an archaeological excavation cabin, integrated excavation platform and multi-functional excavation operation system.

With the support of professional teams of multiple disciplines and institutions, they have formed an integrated work mode combining traditional archaeology, laboratory archaeology, technological archaeology as well as the protection of cultural relics. The combination will ensure the high quality and high level of archaeological work, NCHA said at the conference.

Meanwhile, the NCHA has identified the "Research on the Civilization Process of Bashu in Sichuan-Chongqing Region" as a major program of the "Archaeological China" project, aiming to conduct in-depth study on the evolution of civilization in the region and its integration into the overall cultural landscape of the pluralistic unity of the Chinese nation.

Located in the city of Guanghan, some 40 kilometers from Sichuan's provincial capital Chengdu, the Sanxingdui Ruins site is regarded one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the 20th century. The excavation has lasted for nearly 100 years since the first discovery in the late 1920s.

In 1986, archaeologists found two large-scale sacrificial pits dating back to the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC). Thousands of rare treasures were discovered from the two pits.

Watch the video: Ancient Relics That Are So Advanced They Shouldnt Exist (January 2022).