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Largest Ever Prehistoric Ancient City in China

Archaeologists Confirm Largest Ever Prehistoric Ancient City in China

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After nearly two years of large-scale archaeological surveying, exploration, and excavation, archaeologists have recently confirmed that the Shimao Ruins covers an area of over four square kilometres, making it the largest prehistoric city ruins in China. The discovery is of great significance for further investigating the origins of Chinese civilization.

The neolithic Shimao Ruins are located at the northern edge of Loess Plateau, more than twenty kilometres from the Yellow River in Shaanxi Province, and have been dated back to 2000 BC.

The ancient ruins were first discovered in 1976 and declared as a Protected Monument of National Cultural Heritage in 2006, but it wasn’t until 2011 that an systematic survey and excavation started on the site. Since then, the team of archaeologists have discovered fairly well-preserved stone city-walls, fortified gates that can close at their bases, turrets, an outer city wall and an inner bailey.  Remains of palaces, houses, tombs, sacrificial altars and handicraft workshops are scattered around the site, and this year, archaeologists found the ruins of an enormous outer gate which was constructed using complex and advanced techniques.

"Defences built alongside the city walls were thought to date back to the Spring and Autumn periods of the eighth to fifth centuries BC. But this discovery has redefined that history," said Sun Zhouyong, a researcher at Shaanxi Archaeology and Research Institute.

The discovery of many important remains like the earliest preserved murals, partial jade ware and large quantities of pottery shards indicated that the Shimao site played an important core position in the Chinese northern cultural sphere.

Seventy to eighty skulls from young women have also been found. It is believed they were killed and subsequently buried in a mass grave here. "The skulls show signs of being hit and burned. This collective burial might also have something to do with the founding ceremony of the city," Sun said.

The Shimao city ruins will go down in history as one of the definitive archaeological finds of the century thus far in China. Its significance cannot be underestimated, as it redefines previous studies on the Chinese civilisation.

By April Holloway

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