Sensational find Sanxingdui: gifts for gods made of gold

In any case, the people of Sanxingdui sacrificed their most valuable possessions. “They were items that were previously very important in the community,” says Xu. “No everyday objects, but probably cult objects,” adds Wertmann.

© Alamy / View Stock (Excerpt)

Stare Eyes | On the larger-than-life bronze head, the ears stick out, the mouth is wide and the pupils protrude. It is unknown which creature is to be depicted.

The many new finds also inspire international experts such as the US archaeologist Rowan Flad from Harvard University. “We have so much material from the six new pits that we can compare to learn more about the actual rituals and their meaning,” says Flad. He is interested in why different things were laid down in layers and what the top layer is all about: the elephant tusks. The excavators found 80 of them in a pit – an enormously valuable commodity. Only male elephants have ivory tusks that are so long. Hunting them and then placing such a large amount in a sacrificial pit is a testament to the power of the people of the time, Flad said. Such a hunt required a high degree of organization and it must have extended over large areas.

In general, elephants must have played an important role. Patrick Wertmann is also convinced of this. The archaeologist points out that elephants were native and roaming in Sichuan province at the time. “They are still there today a little further southwest.” The animals are omnipresent in the pits. The people of Sanxingdui probably worshiped them, Wertmann reflects. He points to the large statue that may once have had a tusk in the openings of its hands. Elephant skulls are depicted on the base of the figure. Did she represent some kind of elephant god? “It’s conceivable, but that hasn’t been answered yet,” explains Wertmann.

China’s enthusiasm for its own history

Wealth, elaborate objects, the ability to work metals like gold or alloys like bronze, a great deal of organization are all indicators of a highly developed culture. The decoration and type of objects were unique to China, different from many known finds from central China’s Yellow River regions. And so the enthusiasm in China is currently great. “Public interest is enormous,” says Lothar von Falkenhausen, a professor of Chinese archeology at the University of California, Los Angeles, an expert on the Chinese Bronze Age. “People want to experience it.” New museums have emerged in the Jinsha district of the provincial capital of Chengdu, for example. In March 2021, state television also reported live for days on the excavations in Sanxingdui, as Patrick Wertmann knows.

The new finds from Sanxingdui are ranked in China as one of the country’s most important discoveries, even more important than the Terracotta Army in the tomb of the first emperor. The government has given the site priority due to the current excavations, and archaeologists from all over the country have been ordered there, says Anke Hein, who is in close contact with Chinese researchers. More than 120 scientists are currently working at the excavation site.

Excavations and monument protection in China are also promoted from the highest level in other areas: In the past two years, President Xi Jinping has repeatedly stated that archeology should not only research cultural history, but is also politically and socially important. According to the state news agency »Xinhuanet« Xi said the excavation finds reveal the origin and development of Chinese culture, its glorious achievements and great contributions to the culture of the world. This requires an archeology of Chinese design and conviction. “We’re still working on exactly what this looks like,” says Patrick Wertmann. »But one thing is certain: Archeology is extremely encouraged in China

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