Ongoing research at a prehistoric archaeological site dubbed “China’s Pompeii” continues to reveal secrets of an ancient civilization from over 4,000 years ago.
About the site: The Lajia site
, discovered in 1981
, covers an area of 680,000 square meters (approximately 168 acres) in China’s upper Yellow River region.
The site is associated with the Qijia culture, which was known for its agricultural economy during the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age periods.
China’s Pompeii: While the exact cause of the catastrophe that buried the site is still debated, it is believed to have been a combination of simultaneous earthquakes and flooding of the Yellow River and mountain gullies.
The tragedy wiped out the entire settlement, leading to its comparison with Pompeii, an ancient Roman city buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. However, the Lajia site predates Pompeii by over 2,000 years, making it a remarkable glimpse into an even earlier civilization.
A lasting embrace: In 2015, the Lajia Ruins Museum in Qinghai Province unveiled preserved artifacts that include remains of the ancient civilization that perished in sudden death.
Among the display were skeletal remains huddled together, apparently protecting each other at the time of the disaster.
One scene frozen in time that touches the heart of many museum visitors shows a mother apparently wrapping her arms around her son in a protective embrace. Another pair of skeletons were also found covering each other while lying down on the floor.
In addition to the skeletal remains, tools and homeware
, archaeologists also unearthed thin yellow strands in an upturned pot, believed to be the world’s oldest known noodles.
While the noodles were initially believed to be made from a combination of foxtail and broomcorn millet, further experiments revealed that the Lajia noodles might have incorporated other starches, possibly barley or wheat. The inhabitants of Lajia used stone knives to process, peel and cut these grains.
Significant breakthroughs: Chinese archaeology writer Ye Maolin highlighted the importance of continued research at the site to further shed light on the ancient Chinese civilization.
“The Lajia site carries significant academic implications for understanding the changing cultural and social process of the area around 4,000 B.P.,” he wrote in 2005. “These new discoveries are the most significant breakthrough of the archaeology of the Qijia Culture since the 1980s.”