Many bronzewares are located in the Sanxingdui Ruins site in Sichuan province recently. XINHUA / CHINA DAILY
The Sanxingdui Ruins site in Sichuan province is generally considered one of most important archaeological sites along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River.
Six pits were newly discovered in the site, according to a news conference in Chengdu on March 20. According to Xinhua, these pits date back 3,200 to 4,000 years and include over 500 artifacts.
“Thanks to the new discoveries, we’ve basically figured out the layout of the sacrificial zone of the Sanxingdui site,” said Lei Yu, a researcher at the Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute, who heads the ongoing excavation.
The about 12-square-kilometer site was discovered in 1929, and major breakthroughs were made in 1986 with the discovery of two pits believed to be for sacrificial ceremonies. The pits were accidentally uncovered by local farmers digging up earth to make bricks.
Over 1,000 artifacts were found at that time, including elaborately decorated bronzeware, face masks and “divine trees” – bronze sculptures of trees with their stretching branches.
Lei pointed out that there were many similarities among the recently discovered pits and the two found in 1986, in terms of the types of artifacts unearthed. Divine trees and bronze masks were found once again.
The recent discoveries further confirm the theory that the pits were used for sacrificial purposes, as many of the items found had been smashed and burned before being buried.
Nevertheless, some new types of artifacts have been unearthed. For example, in the No 3 pit, archaeologists found two square zun jars, a typical ancient Chinese bronze ritual vessel for holding water or wine, according to Lei. Such artifacts were not found in 1986. Some of the bronzeware items have been decorated with dragon and ox patterns.
In the No 6 pit, a 1.5-meter-long and 40-centimeter-wide wooden box covered in cinnabar has brought a new mystery. A plan to open it is still being drafted.
Other important items include decorative gold items in the shape of birds, ivory and bone carvings, silk and cong – a jade artifact originating from the 5,000-year-old World Heritage Site Liangzhu Archaeological Ruins in Zhejiang province, about 1,800 kilometers away.
“These artifacts show the Sanxingdui site had a close connection with Central China, but it also marks an original ancient civilization (in Sichuan) with strong creativity,” said Chen Xiandan, a member of the project who also took part in the 1986 excavation.