A gold mask weighing 280 grams, thought to be 3,000 years old, has been found at an archaeological site in China’s Sichuan province. In addition to the mask, more than 500 valuable items were uncovered in the area, including various ornaments made of silk fibers, ivory and jade.
Scientists said the discovery shed light on social and economic life in the Kingdom of Shu, one of the oldest civilizations in the world.
WEIGHT OF 280 GRAMS
More than 500 artifacts more than 3,000 years old have been found at an archaeological site in Sichuan province, China’s official news agency Xinhua reported. A ceremonial mask weighing about 280 grams and reportedly made of 84 percent gold attracted a lot of attention.
The discovery was made in Sanxingdui, near the capital of Chengdu province. Experts said the items uncovered could shed more light on the former Shu Reign, a kingdom that reigned in the western Sichuan basin until it was conquered in 316 B.C.
In addition to the gold mask, archaeologists also found various ornaments made of ivory, jade and bone. During the work on six pits, the largest of which was 19 square meters, an unopened wooden box and an owl-patterned bronze container also appeared.
However, since the 1920s, more than 50,000 ancient artifacts have been found in Sanxingdui after a local farmer stumbled upon a number of remains. In 1986, a major breakthrough took place with the discovery of two ceremonial pits containing more than 1,000 items, including well-preserved bronze masks.
In late 2019, a third pit was found in the area, and five more were discovered last year. Archaeologists said they believed the pits were used for sacrifice and that many of the items it contained were ritually burned.
Sanxingdui is believed to be in the heart of Shu province, where historians know relatively little about him due to poor written records. Discoveries in the area date back to the 12th and 11th centuries B.C., and most of the items are currently on display in an on-site museum.
The archaeological site, on the other hand, revolutionized the understanding of how civilization flourished in ancient China. In particular, the findings of the Shu culture suggest that the kingdom thrived independently of neighboring communities in the Yellow River Valley, traditionally considered the cradle of Chinese civilization. Song Xinchao, deputy director of China’s National Cultural Heritage Administration, told state-run news agency Xinhua that the latest discovery “enriches and deepens understanding of Sanxingdui culture.”
Tang Fei, head of the excavation team and head of the Sichuan Province Cultural Monuments and Archaeology Research Institute, said at a news conference that the discovery showed the kingdom was “one of the important silk growers in ancient China.”
Sanxingdui is not yet recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but is on the organization’s “provisional list” for possible future breakthroughs. Along with other Shu archaeological sites, it is considered by the UN agency to be “an outstanding representative of Bronze Age civilization in China, East Asia and even the world”.