Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Revealing History in Shaanxi

Shimao dig
We learned about the origins of the East-West Silk Road early in our trek through Shaanxi Province, but at Shimao we learn about the North-South version, the trade route between Iran, Iraq, China and India that was used 5 millennia ago. That's 3,000 years before the birth of Christ.

Locals knew of its presence 100 years ago but the technology was not here to investigate. Excavation did not begin until 2012 and will take at least 50 years to complete.

Definitely off the tourist track, a delegation in a variety of vehicles drove us up a track too narrow for our bus. We wove across bare, windswept hills and mesas, past a fenced off area to our right and a large, tarp-surrounded pavilion-like structure to the left.

Palace excavation
 Just ahead we were ushered into the dig's headquarters where Associate Researcher Shao Jing gave us the slide presentation "Bridging Eurasia and China: Archaeological Evidence from Northern China during the 3rd millennium B.C.E."
Associate Researcher Shao Jing

Archaeologists - there are 50 people in all responsible for the site - have found evidence of a large outer city surrounding a higher, smaller inner city, pond and tower.

"At the top we believe they have found a palace. We are close to the rammed earth foundation. Similar sites are found in India and Iran," said Shao.

Dholavira, India
 Dholavira, in the state of Gujarat, India, on the Tropic of Cancer, discovered 1967-68, is one.

Others include Uruk of cylander seals and Gilgamesh fame in what is now Iraq; and Hatusa, which became the Hittite capital in Turkey. Similarities also were found in Jericho, Jordan.
Uruk, Iraq
 There is a noticeable cross-pollinization of building and decoration styles.

Beyond that, when materials and objects from each site were found in the others it further indicated trade and communications between them. For example, the ivory and crystal being found at Shimao.

"Connecting the Middle East and the Northwest China site is a very important discovery," Shao said.

So much so that they plan to apply for UNESCO World Heritage status in 2019. The site is not open to the public but Shao hoped it might be in two to three years.

Let's see, given the wait for UNESCO status and the time to build facilities, mark your calendars for 2030. Another Chinese archaeological museum like the one we saw near Hancheng will be well-worth the trek.

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