Archaeological News

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Archaeologists confirmed Saturday that an ancient tomb in southwest Beijing’s Fangshan district belongs to regional military governor Liu Ji (757-810) and his wife, the Beijing News reports.

Excavation of the tomb began in August 2012 shortly after construction workers unearthed relics while clearing land for the Beijing cultural trade zone, a “cultural Silicon Valley” in Changgou township. Archaeologists have since collected relics from the site including ancient inscriptions and a stone coffin. Liu’s burial mound, which had been partially destroyed by tomb raiders, is one of the few unearthed Tang Dynasty (618-907) tumuli in greater Beijing. (source)

Beijing’s cultural heritage authority has confirmed that parts of two ancient temples under government protection were used as restaurants, and urged the legislature to update its regulations to better protect historical sites, Beijing Evening News reported Jan 29.

The Songzhu Temple and Zhizhu Temple, near each other in the Dongcheng district, were built more than 200 years ago. They have been listed as cultural and historical sites under city protection.

But Chinese media reported a few days ago that the two temples have been transformed into high-end restaurants, where people can enjoy exquisite food and wine.

A plate inscribed “Temple Restaurant Beijing” is hanging on a wall of Zhizhu Temple.

The restaurant opens only to a small group of people, as the average bill is 500 yuan ($80) each. An anonymous waiter from the restaurant was quoted as saying that it opened in 2011, and most of the customers are foreigners. Read more.

Researchers have been able to trace a line between some of the earliest modern humans to settle in China and people living in the region today.

The evidence comes from DNA extracted from a 40,000-year-old leg bone found in a cave near Beijing.

Results show that the person it belonged to was related to the ancestors of present-day Asians and Native Americans.

The results are published in the journal PNAS.

Humans who looked broadly like present-day people started to appear in the fossil record of Eurasia between 40,000 and 50,000 years ago.

But many questions remain about the genetic relationships between these early modern humans and present-day Homo sapiens populations. Read more.

Beijing’s heaviest rainfall in six decades has affected 160 heritage sites, including the Peking Man World Heritage Site at Zhoukoudian, according to the city’s Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage.  In addition, at least 77 people died as a result of the storms, which have again raised questions about Beijing’s infrastructure, especially its antiquated drainage network.

At the Peking Man site, the deluge caused several minor landslides, disabled the site’s security system, and flooded a museum (no major exhibits were reportedly harmed).  Dirt and mud covered part of the archaeological dig at Zhoukoudian, halting researchers’ work for at least three days, according to Zhang Shuangquan, a Chinese archaeologist who has been excavating the site since 2009.

In an interview with China Daily, Zhang said he was most concerned about a potentially bigger landslide destroying the whole dig site, which is located on a cliff. The site is currently covered with plastic sheets, but it is the stratum at the top of the mountain — which is uncovered — that concerns Zhang the most. Read more.

Beijing: About 160 historical sites, including the Peking Man World Heritage Site at Zhoukoudian, were damaged in floods caused by the heaviest rainfall in six decades in Beijing and suburbs. 

Seventy seven people were killed in the incessant rains which also left a trail of destruction causing direct economic losses of about USD 125 million, Beijing Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage said. 

The deluge caused several small-scale landslides at the Peking Man site and disabled its security system, Li Yan, the senior administrator at Zhoukoudian, located in a village 50 kilometres southwest of Beijing said. 

A museum at the site was flooded, but the major exhibits are all safe. 

Dirt and mud washed by the heaviest rainfall in six decades covered part of the archaeological dig at Zhoukoudian and halted researchers’ work for at least three days, state-run China Daily quoted Zhang Shuangquan, an archaeologist at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences as saying. 

"If the rock stratum collapses, it would lose its value for archaeology…A period of human civilization would be buried in mystery forever," Zhang, who has been excavating the site since 2009 said. Read more.

It may be difficult to believe that the world’s largest man-made structure — recently reported to be two and half times longer than previously thought — could suffer from overcrowding, but such is the case at the Great Wall of China, where visitor demand over the past decade has inspired many stories of unsustainable tourism.

Last week, in response to growing crowds of domestic and international tourists, Beijing announced that it will open two new sections of the Great Wall formerly off limits to the public.  City officials told the state news agency Xinhua that the four parts of the Wall currently open to tourists are so overcrowded on weekends and holidays that individuals are climbing walls and damaging the structures.

According to the Beijing Cultural Relics Bureau, the Wall’s Huanghuacheng and Hefangkou sections will be opened to the public following necessary repairs and renovations, while the already-open Mutianyu and Badaling sections will also be extended. Read more.

In the 1930s archaeologists working at the site of Zhoukoudian near Beijing recovered an incredible trove of partial skulls and other bones representing some 40 individuals that would eventually be assigned to the early human species Homo erectus. The bones, which recent estimates put at around 770,000 years old, constitute the largest collection of H. erectus fossils ever found. They were China’s paleoanthropological pride and joy. And then they vanished.

According to historical accounts, in 1941 the most important fossils in the collection were packed in large wooden footlockers or crates to be turned over to the U.S. military for transport to the American Museum of Natural History in New York for safekeeping during World War II. But the fossils never made it to the U.S. Today, all scientists have are copies of the bones. The disappearance of the originals stands as one of the biggest mysteries in paleoanthropology. Read more.

Beijing, June 12 (IANS) An unfinished Buddhist scripture dating to around 386 A.D. has been found engraved on a cave wall in China.

Archaeological workers discovered the scripture in northern China’s Hebei province, Xinhua reported.

The scripture - named the Lotus Sutra - was found in a cave in Xiangtangshan region, an official said.

It is believed to have been created during the Northern Dynasties (386 to 581 A.D.), but was not finished, the official said.

'We'll probe into the reason why the work was halted,' he added.

The Xiangtangshan area includes 16 caves and over 450 cliffside sculptures. It came under state protection in 1961. (source)