Category Archives: CHINA

City wall discovered that’s 1,000 years older than Rome, lost civilization found in China

City wall discovered that’s 1,000 years older than Rome, lost civilization found in China

The ancient walls of a lost city in southern China have been uncovered in a remarkable find by archaeologists. The northern section of the city was found at the Sansingdui archaeological site located in Sichuan province. It dates back than 3,000 years to the Bronze Age.

​The Southern, Western, and Eastern sections fo the city have now been uncovered as well, granting archaeologists a full picture of what the settlement used to look like. Three Neolithic tombs thought to have predated the walls have also been unearthed, with one including a full human skeleton.

In 1929, a farmer digging a new well discovered a stash of jade relics, which led Chinese archaeologists to excavate the area around the village.

Nothing came of these explorations until 1986 when two enormous sacrificial pits were found. Uncovered from the pits were thousands of pottery, jade, bronze, and gold artifacts that were not seen elsewhere in China before.

This exciting find led to a whole new understanding of the development of Chinese culture. The artifacts were dated as being 3,000 to 5,000 years old, and archaeologists knew they were examining a previously unknown ancient culture that had developed thousands of miles from civilizations of a similar age.

The artifacts showed evidence of having been burned or broken before they were carefully buried; however, this doesn’t detract from the magnificence of the find.

The dig uncovered sculptures with animal faces, masks with dragon features, human-style heads with masks on, figurines of animals such as dragons, birds, and snakes all beautifully decorated, as well as a sacrificial altar, a bronze tree, rings, knives, and other decorative items.  The most unusual item found was an eight-foot-tall human figure made of bronze.

The archaeologists were surprised to find numerous bronze masks and human heads that have square faces, huge almond-shaped eyes, long straight noses, and exaggerated ears.

These were carbon dated and found to be from the 12th to 11th century BC, and the well-developed technology used to create these bronzes astounded the scientists.

The ancient Chinese metallurgists knew that adding lead to an amalgam of copper and tin gave them a stronger substance that they could use to create large items such as the human and the tree.

One of the masks, the largest ever found anywhere, measured an astounding 1.32 meters wide and 0.72 meters tall. The animal-like ears, protruding eyes, and ornate bodies of these masks demonstrated an artistic style unique from any other found in China.

Unfortunately, no written texts have been located at Sanxingdui to help scientists unravel the mysteries of the city.  This Bronze Age civilization, which is now known as the Sanxingdui Culture, has been associated with the ancient kingdom of Shu; the rich artifacts have been attributed to the legendary kings of Shu.

There may be few reliable records that link this civilization to the kingdom of Shu, but the Chronicles of Huayang that were written in the Jin Dynasty, which existed from 265-420 AD, tell of the Shu Kingdom being founded by the Cancong. These people were described as having bulging eyes, a common feature of the artifacts found at Sanxingdui.

This amazing civilization was at its prime around 3,000 to 5,000 years ago, and the city was then completely abandoned.

The question that is facing archaeologists now is – why?  A theory has been put forward that a major earthquake hit the region, causing landslides that blocked the water supply to the city, so the residents had to leave their city and move closer to the river. This theory has not been proven.

4,000-year-old skeletons of mother Clutching a child to her chest at China

4,000-year-old skeletons of mother Clutching a child to her chest at China

The loving embrace of a mother and her child lasts for 4,000 years, Chinese archaeologists reported after finding their interlocked skeletons.

Skeletal remains show the mother kneeling down on the ground with her arms around her son in central China

Archaeologists unearthed proof of a mother’s love in Qinghai province, China, when they discovered the 4,000-year-old skeletons of a mother and child still locked in a dying  embrace.

The two skeletons are frozen in time, preserved in the stance they took in their final moments before an earthquake wiped out China’s “Pompeii of the East” around 2,000 BC.

The mother’s arms are draped around her son in what archaeologists believe to be both an embrace and an attempt to protect her son as catastrophe hit.

The mother was trying to shield her child from a massive earthquake that struck China in 2000 BC and triggered massive floods; the event is sometimes referred to as ‘China’s Pompeii’. The site is riddled with tragic scenes.

Lajia Ruins Museum, located in northwest China’s Qinghai province, is a 4000-year-old earthquake relic, with very well preserved artefacts and skeletons.

The entire disaster scene is so shocking it has been likened to the Pompeii tragedy. Pompeii was a Roman city wiped off the face of the Earth after a volcanic eruption and buried under ash and pumice.

Archaeologically, the entire site is stunning: it paints an incredibly well-preserved picture of an important ancient event.

It is also very important because it holds early clues to an early Bronze Age civilization that lived in the upper Yellow River region and of which we know very little about. But from a human point of view, it’s just heartbreaking.

These people had a rough fate, they were killed by a disaster they could do nothing to protect themselves against; they couldn’t even protect their children, try as they might. It’s a testimony to nature’s strength, and how weak we sometimes are against it.

I just hope they don’t separate the two skeletons. I’m not sure why – it’s not for a religious reason – but it just seems wrong to separate the two.

Rare 6-Million-Year-Old Skull of Juvenile Ape Discovered

Rare 6-Million-Year-Old Skull of Juvenile Ape Discovered

A new cranium of a fossil ape from Shuitangba, a Miocene site in Yunnan province, China has been confirmed by a team of scientists. Dr Denise Su, curator of palaeobotany and paleoecology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, co-authored research describing the new skull published online in the Chinese Science Bulletin.

A significant discovery is the new juvenile cranium of the fossil ape Lufengpithecus, since juvenile crania of apes and hominins are extremely rare in fossil records, particularly those of infants and young juveniles.

The latest find cranium is just the second relatively complete cranium of a young juvenile in the entire Miocene (23 to 5 million years ago) record of fossil apes all over the Old World, and both were discovered from the late Miocene of Yunnan Province.

An extremely rare juvenile skull of an extinct ape that lived some 6 million years ago has now been revealed from China.

The new cranium is also noteworthy for its age. Shuitangba, the site from which it was recovered, at just over 6 million years, dates to near the end of the Miocene, a time when apes had become extinct in most of Eurasia.

Shuitangba has also produced remains of the fossil monkey, Mesopithecus, which represents the earliest occurrence of monkeys in East Asia.

The Shuitangba site in China, where an extremely rare juvenile skull of an extinct ape has now been revealed.

The preservation of the new cranium is excellent, which is important because all previously discovered adult crania of the species to which it is assigned, Lufengpithecus lufengensis, were badly crushed and distorted during the fossilization process.

In living ape species, cranial anatomy in individuals at the same stage of development as the new fossil cranium already show a close resemblance to those of adults. Therefore, this fossil gives researchers the best look at the cranial anatomy of the species.

The team notes that the new cranium shows little resemblance to those of living orangutans, and in particular, shows none of what are considered to be key diagnostic features of orangutan crania.

Lufengpithecus, therefore, appears to represent a late surviving lineage of Eurasian apes, but with no certain affinities yet clear.

The survival of this lineage is not entirely surprising since southern China was less affected by the climatic deterioration during the later Miocene that resulted in the extinction of many ape species throughout the rest of Eurasia.

The researchers are hopeful that renewed excavations will produce the remains of adult individuals, which will allow them to better assess both the relationships among members of this lineage as well as the relationships of this lineage to other fossil and living apes.

“In addition to the ape, we have recovered hundreds of specimens of other animals and plants,” said Su.

“We are looking forward to going back to Shuitangba next year to continue fieldwork and, hopefully, find more specimens of not only the ape but other animals and plants that will tell us more about the environment.

Given what we have recovered so far, Shuitangba has great potential to help us learn more about the environment in the latest part of the Miocene in southern China and the evolution of the plants and animals found there.”

A 3,100-year-old bowl of soup found next to a dead body – and it’s still LIQUID

A 3,100-year-old bowl of soup found next to a dead body – and it’s still LIQUID

Right on cue for soup season, archaeologists have found a 3,100-year-old tomb lined with what are believed to be bronze soup bowls in Shaanxi province, China, according to Live Science.

All those bowls might have been in service of the decomposed, unidentified corpse archaeologists also found in the tomb.

Along with the bowls and the body, Live Science reports, archaeologists found a “four-handled tureen” decorated with dragons, birds and 192 spikes. There are also a few bovine heads thrown in, for good measure.

The four-handled tureen adorned with dragons, birds, and spikes

“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,” Live Science reported the translation of the original Chinese journal article as reading.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Shaanxi province, where the bowls were found, was the capital of the Zhou dynasty.

M4 was not the only tomb that archaeologist Zhankui Wang’s team found. Fifty-six or more tombs have been uncovered nearby since excavations began in 2012, according to Live Science.

As Live Science reports, the Zhou people of China were warring against the Shang at the time of the burial.

The archaeologists reportedly observed the names of several prominent Shang clans on the vessels they found, suggesting they originally belonged to the Shang.

The archaeologists conjecture that these vessels may have been plundered from the Shang by the Zhou.

“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 archaeologists wrote, according to Live Science.

One of the more novel finds was this deer shaped wine holder, illustrating high level of Chinese skills in Bronze Age metalworking.

They believe that the vessels may have been plundered during the war for succession.

According to The Encyclopedia Britannica, the Zhou and Shang dynasties co-existed for many years. For years, they alternated between friendly relations and fighting with one another, until one of the major houses of the Zhou created a plan to conquer the lands held by the Shang.

These plans culminated in a battle in the middle of the 11th century B.C., and eventually led to three years of fighting that resulted in the Zhou conquering all of China.

The Zhou was the longest-ruling of China’s dynasties, ranging from between approximately 1046 to 256 B.C, according to Columbia University.

The Shang dynasty, though not as long-lived, provided archaeologists with some of the earliest examples of Chinese bronze work, according to Encyclopedia Britannica

Pits of Skulls Found in Shimao: China’s Neolithic City of Mystery

Pits of Skulls Found in Shimao: China’s Neolithic City of Mystery

The villagers of China’s dusty Loess Plateau believed for decades that the crumbling rocks near their homes were from China’s Great Wall, which was very common along the area.

As large numbers of jade pieces shaped into disks, blades and scepters were found by locals and looters, suspicions grew as jade was only available at about 1000 miles away from the area and wasn’t even a feature of the Great Wall.

When a team of Chinese archaeologists came to investigate the rubbles, they started unearthing the area and found that the stones weren’t a part of the Great Wall but were the ruins of a magnificent fortress city.

5: jade items found at East Gate; 7: jade and metal bracelets with a human arm bone found in a burial; 8: stone human head; 9: Shimao ceramics.

The digging had revealed a 230 feet high pyramid surrounded by more than six miles of protective walls and an inner sanctum containing jade artifacts, painted murals, and gruesome evidence of human sacrifice.

Before the excavations were suspended earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the archaeologists had dug up 70 stunning stone sculptures which were figurines of monsters, serpents, and half-human beasts resembling Bronze Age iconography of China.

Block carved with humanoid deity. Southern retaining wall, upper citadel, Shimao, Shenmu county, Shaanxi province, China.

The site has been named Shimao (original name undetermined) and carbon dating of its parts date back to around 4,300 years ago i.e. 2,000 years before the oldest section of the Great Wall. As it seems, Shimao flourished for nearly half a millennium in that remote region, and then suddenly, it disappeared.

Aerial photo of Shimao’s East Gate. A: U-shaped screen; B: gate tower; C: L-shaped wall; D: bastion; E: corner tower.

Shimao now is the largest known Neolithic settlement in China and none of the ancient Chinese texts mentions a city residing so far north of the “cradle of Chinese Civilization”. It had an expanse of 1000 acre and is larger than the Central Park of New York City. Its art and technology had influenced the northern regions and the future dynasties of China.

Along with other discoveries at prehistoric sites, Shimao is forcing historians to rethink the origin of the Chinese civilization.

According to the leader of the dig at Shimao, “Shimao is one of the most important archaeological discoveries of this century.”

Shimao’s step pyramid.

Designed for danger, Shimao was built on a conflict zone i.e. a borderland dominated by warfare between farmers of the central plains and herdsmen of the northern steppe. To protect themselves from violent attacks, the Shimao people constructed their 20-tiered pyramid on the highest of the northern hills.

It’s visible from every part of the city and is half the height of the Great Pyramid at Giza in Egypt built around the same time. Its base, however, is four times larger and the Shimao elites resided at the topmost tier of the pyramid which had a 20-acre palatial complex with amenities.

The pyramid was surrounded by embryonic urban designs and inner and outer perimeter walls. More than 70 small satellite stone towns have also been discovered in the Shimao orbit.

The defense system of civilization is as fascinating as its infrastructure and huge fortifications. However, the most terrible discovery was from underneath the city’s eastern wall which had 80 human skulls clustered in six pits without the skeletons that represent traditions of human sacrifice in this astonishing prehistoric town.

A pit of skulls unearthed at Shimao.

2,100-Year-Old King’s Mausoleum Discovered in China

2,100-Year-Old King’s Mausoleum Discovered in China

An elaborate mausoleum that was built for a king 2,100 years ago has been unearthed in China.

Archaeologists discovered numerous precious treasures from jade artifacts and musical instruments to life-sized decorated chariots and weapons, which were buried with king Liu Fei in an area of modern-day Xuyi County.

Liu Fei ruled the kingdom of Jiangdu – part of the Chinese Empire – for 26 years before dying in 128 BC. It is thought that the mausoleum was plundered long ago, but archaeologists still found over 10,000 artefacts, some of which were crafted from gold, silver and jade.

2,100-Year-Old King's Mausoleum Discovered in China
Archaeologists in China have discovered a mausoleum, dating back over 2,100 years, that contains three main tombs, including the tomb of Liu Fei (shown at bottom), the ruler of the Jiangdu kingdom in China.

Excavations of the mausoleum, which comprises three tombs as well as pits housing the chariots and weapons, LiveScience reported. According to the journal of Chinese Archaeology, a team from Nanjing Museum examined the remains of a well that surrounded the complex, which was built to be 1,608 ft (490 meters) long.

They worked quickly to document the site, which they said was at risk from quarrying.

A large mound of the earth once protected the king’s tomb, which has two shafts leading to a roomy burial chamber measuring 115ft by 85ft (35 by 26 metres). It contained goods fit for a king in his afterlife, the archaeologists explained.

A chariot-and-horse pit, made of wood, lacquer, bronze, gold and silver, found in one of the pits in the mausoleum where archaeologists found the tomb of Liu Fei.
The bronze mat weight was found in the tomb adjacent to Liu Fei’s. It contains inlaid gold, silver and gemstones. A gold rabbit belt hook (pictured right) was also found in one of the tombs

Historical texts recount the king’s lavish lifestyle, so it came as little surprise to archaeologists that he was buried in such luxurious surroundings.

Weapons discovered in the burial chamber included iron swords, crossbows, knives and more than 20 model chariots, alongside instruments such as chime bells and parts for a stringed instrument called a zither.

Because, according to ancient tradition,  the king needed riches in the afterlife, a hoard of 100,000 coins containing a square hole in the center of each, were buried with him. The banliang coins were made by the first emperor of China.

This is the tomb of Liu Fei, the ruler of the Jiangdu kingdom in the Chinese Empire. It is just possible to pick out the different chambers of the tomb

Goose and deer-shaped lamps were discovered in another part of the chamber as well as a silver basin, while another area, set up like a kitchen, catered for the king’s food needs in the afterlife.

Cauldrons, wine jars, tripods, jugs and cups were found as well as shells, bones and seeds, suggesting that food was left with the king.

Despite the rich selection of artefacts that survived a past plundering, the king’s body was not found in the tomb and his coffins were damaged.

‘Near the coffins many jade pieces and fragments, originally parts of the jade burial suit, were discovered. These pieces also indicate that the inner coffin, originally lacquered and inlaid with jade plaques, was exquisitely manufactured,’ the archaeologists wrote in the journal.

Off the main burial chamber, more pits were found housing a jumble of weapons such as swords and shields, as well as two chariot pits. One contains five life-size chariots, made of wood and elaborately decorated with lacquer. Some parts of the vehicles were inlaid with gold and silver.

Other looted tombs were also discovered, which could belong to high-status individuals. An undamaged ‘jade coffin’ is the only one of its kind to have been found in China.

A 5,000-Year-Old Settlement Found Near Mysterious Sanxingdui Ruins, China

A 5,000-Year-Old Settlement Found Near Mysterious Sanxingdui Ruins, China

On Tuesday, Chinese archaeologists revealed they had discovered an important site next to the ruins of Sanxingdui, which they claim to be a settlement about 5,000 years old.

For its striking resemblance to the main character in the Angry Birds mobile app, an ancient clay pig figurine has created a sensation on the internet. The fist-size artwork was found under the remains of a tribal settlement in southwestern China dating back almost 5,000 years.

It has sparked a trending topic in the country after people said it looked exactly like the Green Pig in the popular video game.

Archaeologists found the tiny sculpture while digging in the remains of a small ancient community outside modern-day Guanghan in Sichuan province.

The experts believe that the village was situated about eight kilometres (five miles) outside Sanxingdui, a mysterious Bronze Age kingdom. The tribe likely came into being around 5,000 years ago, and the pig figurine is thought to be 3,200 years old.

The piece of pottery has been described as ‘cute, vivid and delicate’ by the researchers, who say it represents the advanced aesthetic standards of the region’s prehistoric residents.

Chinese internet users expressed their amazement after a picture of the piece of pottery was released by the Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute.

On Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter, one person gushed: ‘It is the pig from the Angry Birds!’

Another reader wondered: ‘The Angry Birds? It’s like time travel.’

A third commenter joked: ‘The pig in the Angry birds. You have infringed the copyright.’

The research team claims to have discovered traces of continuous human activity on the archaeological site dating from 5,000 years ago until the dynasties of Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912).

Officials plan to excavate 7,000 square meters (75,350 square feet) of the site, which is officially named Guanghan Joint Ruins. By the end of July, they had studied 4,500 square meters (48,440 square feet), according to an official post. 

Apart from the pig figurine, experts found detailed carvings of a dragon and a phoenix under a broken clay plate, a totem symbolizing good fortune.

Other discoveries include daily utensils, such as vases and cups made with porcelain or stone.

well preserved 700-year-old mummy found by chance by Chinese road workers

Well preserved 700-year-old mummy found by chance by Chinese road workers

If most people think of mummies, they represent Egyptian culture and complex techniques for mummification aimed at bridging life and death and maintaining the survival of the body.

Whereas most mummies found today are a result of this process, there have been rare occasions where a mummified body is not the result of an intentional preservation process, but of some form of natural preservation.

Chinese road workers discovered the extremely well-preserved remains of a woman dating back 700 years to the Ming Dynasty. This discovery provided much insight into the lifestyle of the people from the Ming Dynasty and left many questions. Who was this woman? And how did she remain so well-preserved over the centuries?

Road-workers discovered the tomb of a woman from the Ming Dynasty in China.

The discovery of the Chinese mummy was quite shocking. In Taizhou, in the Jiangsu Province located in Eastern China, road workers were clearing the way to widen a road.

This task involved digging several feet into the ground. They were digging approximately six feet below the surface when they struck a large, solid object.

They quickly realized that it may be a significant find, so they contacted a team of archaeologists from the Taizhou Museum to excavate the area. They eventually determined that this was actually a tomb, and inside they found a three-layered coffin.

Upon opening one the main coffin, the archaeologists saw layers of silk and linens, covered in a brown liquid. When they looked beneath the linens, they discovered the stunning remains of a female.

The remains were almost completely intact, including her body, hair, skin, clothing, and jewelry. Details such as her eyebrows and eyelashes were still perfectly preserved.

The Ming Dynasty mummy was found in a near-perfect state, though researchers are unclear how she remained so well preserved

Researchers have not been able to definitively establish how old the body is. The woman was believed to have lived during the Ming Dynasty, which dated from 1368 through 1644.

This mean’s the woman’s body could potentially be 700 years old if it dates back to the start of the Dynasty. The woman was dressed in traditional clothing from the Ming Dynasty, and was adorned with several pieces of jewelry, including a striking green ring. From her jewelry and the fine silks she was wrapped in, it is believed that she was a high-ranking civilian.

The coffin also contained bones, ceramics, ancient writings and other relics. The archaeologists who excavated the coffin did not know whether the brown liquid inside the coffin was used intentionally to preserve the body, or if it was just groundwater that had seeped into the coffin.  

However, some researchers have claimed that this body was likely preserved due to being buried in just the right environment. If the temperature and oxygen level in water is just right, bacteria cannot grow, and decomposition can be slowed or halted.

The woman was found lying in a brown liquid which is thought to have preserved the body, although researchers think this may have been accidental.

This discovery provides researchers with an intimate look into the customs of the Ming Dynasty. They have a very clear view of the clothing and jewelry people wore, and some of the relics that were used during the time. This can answer many questions about the lifestyle, traditions, and daily activities of the people from that time.

The finding also opened up many new questions as to what conditions led to the extreme preservation of her body over the course of hundreds of years.

There are also questions about who this woman was, what role she played within society, how she died, and whether any portion of her preservation was intentional.

Due to the secluded nature of this discovery, many of these questions may never be answered, as it can be difficult to provide such answers with only one set of remains. If similar discoveries are made in the future, they may provide the information needed to answer these, and other questions about this woman – the accidental mummy.