Archaeologists in southwest China announced on Mondy that they have uncovered a trove of over 13,000 artifacts that shed light on the vibrant culture of Sanxingdui — an ancient Chinese civilization that mysteriously vanished thousands of years ago.
One of the highlights is a bronze and jade box with a tortoise-shaped lid adorned with handles in the shape of dragon heads. Researchers also revealed that the box had been wrapped in silk after detecting traces of the material surrounding it.
“It would not be an exaggeration to say that the vessel is one of a kind, given its distinctive shape, fine craftsmanship and ingenious design,” Li Haichao, a professor at Sichuan University, told Xinhua. “Although we do not know what this vessel was used for, we can assume that ancient people treasured it.”
Many of the sculptures uncovered are emblematic of cultural exchange and integration in the early Chinese civilization. One particular figure blends elements of three distinct cultures, combining depictions of a snake body with a human head from the Shu civilization, a bronze drinking vessel in the style of the Zhou Dynasty and another ceremonial vessel called a zun from the Zhongyuan region.
“The sculptures are very complex and imaginative, reflecting the fairy world imagined by people at that time, and they demonstrate the diversity and richness of Chinese civilization,” Zhao Hao, an associate professor at Peking University, told Xinhua.
The Sanxingdui archaeological site was first discovered by a farmer in the Sichuan Province who stumbled upon a large stash of jade while repairing an irrigation ditch in 1927.
Composed of a series of sacrificial pits, the 12-square-mile-site was a shocking revelation for many historians and archeologists because it challenged the well-accepted theory that the birthplace of Chinese civilization was in northern China’s Yellow River Basin.
Because there are no existing written records or human remains attributed to Sanxingdui, the artifacts uncovered in the site are the sole remnants of a culture that experts believe to be a part of the 4800-year-old Shu Kingdom.