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

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

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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)

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.

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)

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)

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.

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.

Top image: Part of the Chinese treasure hoard found in the past year at the Sanxingdui Ruins in a number of sacrifice pits. This bronze statue with a zun drinking vessel on top of it is considered to be important enough to request UNESCO World Heritage Status.                      Source: CCTV

By Ashley Cowie

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