A 280 gram gold mask, thought to be 3,000 years old, was found at an archaeological excavation site in Sichuan Province, China. In addition to the mask, more than 500 valuable items were unearthed in the area, including various ornaments made of silk fibers, ivory and jade. Scientists stated that the discovery sheds light on social and economic life in the Shu Kingdom, one of the oldest civilizations in the world.
More than 500 artifacts dating back 3,000 years have been found at an archaeological excavation site in Sichuan province, according to Xinhua, China’s official news agency. A ceremonial mask, which weighs about 280 grams and is stated to be made of 84 percent gold, attracted great attention. The discovery was made in Sanxingdui, located near the capital of Chengdu province. Experts said the unearthed items could shed more light on the ancient Shu Reign, a kingdom that ruled in the western Sichuan basin until it was conquered in 316 BC.
In addition to the gold mask, archaeologists found various ornaments made of ivory, jade, and bone in the excavation. During the work carried out in six pits, the largest of which is 19 square meters, an unopened wooden box and an owl-patterned bronze container were also revealed.
However, since the 1920s, more than 50,000 antiquities have been found in Sanxingdui after a local farmer accidentally stumbled upon a number of remains. A major breakthrough was made in 1986 with the discovery of two ceremonial pits containing more than a thousand 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 believe the pits were used for sacrificial purposes, and that many of the items contained were ritually burned.
Sanxingdui is believed to be in the heart of Shu state, which historians know relatively little about due to scanty written records. Discoveries in the area date back to the 12th and 11th centuries BCE, and most of the items are now on display in an on-site museum. The archaeological site, on the other hand, revolutionized experts’ understanding of how civilization developed in ancient China. In particular, findings from the Shu culture show that the kingdom developed independently of neighboring societies in the Yellow River Valley, traditionally considered the cradle of Chinese civilization. Song Xinchao, deputy director of China’s National Heritage Administration, told state-run news agency Xinhua that the latest discovery “enriched and deepened understanding of Sanxingdui culture.”
Tang Fei, head of the excavation team and head of the Sichuan Province Institute for Cultural Heritage and Archeology Research, said at a press conference that the discovery showed the kingdom to be “one of the major silk growers in ancient China. Although Sanxingdui has not yet been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is on the organization’s “tentative list” for possible future breakthroughs. Along with other Shu archaeological sites, it is recognized by the UN agency as “an outstanding representative of the Bronze Age civilization of China, East Asia and even the world”.