It all started in 1929, when a farmer in Sichuan province discovered some stone and jade artifacts while doing repairs on a sewage ditch. While the discovery was exciting, it took 60 years for the world to notice it: in 1986, archaeologists and historians realized just how significant the discovery was.
When excavating the area, the first two pits were discovered. Two pits containing 1,000 artifacts with hundreds of broken and burned artifacts were buried. The site is still being excavated by archaeologists, geologists, and historians from Sichuan University, Sichuan Provincial Research Institute of Cultural and Archaeological Relics, Peking University, and universities. other schools and museums.
The searches continue to pop up to this day. Between 2020 and 2022, six other craters were discovered at the Sanxingdui site. In these pits, the archaeologist found bronze porcelain decorated with exaggerated figures, ivory carvings, pieces of silk, and pieces of gold masks.
Archaeologists believe that the Sanxingdui culture was part of the ancient Shu kingdom. Sanxingdui was part of the Bronze Age China and based on archaeological finds in the area, it was a highly developed culture that was able to create objects of great sophistication. However, it mysteriously disappeared around 1,100 BC and all that remains are artifacts of this civilization.
Much of what is known about the Sanxingdui civilization comes from two sacrificial pits believed to have been created during the civilization’s existence. In these pits, archaeologists discovered 1,238 “bronze”, ivory artifacts, 543 gold artifacts, and 565 jade artifacts.
Giant bronze masks with bulging eyes, large ears, and thin lips have been found in the area, and these masks are unlike any other found in the area. area. They may have been created from imitations of the face of Cancong, the founder of the Shu kingdom, who is described in the “Chronicles of Huayang” as having eyes from the Jin Dynasty 266-420. convex.
Until now, we still do not know how these masks are used and what is their specific purpose? However, there is evidence of what appears to be the burning and breaking of artifacts before they were brought inside the pit. This only increases the mystery of Sanxingdui, what is the purpose of burning and destroying some of these artifacts, no one can yet explain.
The artistic style of the bronze artifacts at Sanxingdui shows that the culture had a surprisingly high level of metallurgical engineering. It was different and far beyond the level of engineering anywhere else in the world at the time.
Bronze artifacts are not only beautifully decorated and sophisticated; The size of some artifacts is still relatively large. Some of the massive items beyond the mask include a 1-meter altar depicting a supposed “sacrifice” scene or another massive bronze sculpture found to be a 2.4-meter tall tree. , with uniquely shaped leaves.
One of the many fascinating bronzes found at Sanxingdui is a 5ft (1.5m) tall sculpture made from three individually cast pieces, then welded together. Part of the sculpture is an ancient wine vessel (lei) resting on a square base. Another part of the sculpture depicts an upside down human head with bulging eyes and large tusks with the body of a snake. The upper part is another antique wine decanter (zun), in the shape of a trumpet with bright blue pigment. Including lei and zun only leads to more questions.
Zun is a rare item in the Shu kingdom but common in the Central Plains/Central Plains of China. Lei has been associated with the pre-Western Zhou period near the Yellow River.
The mystery behind this site is that no human remains or written records have been found related to Sanxingdui.
One theory could explain what happened to Sanxingdui and why they left: the site may have been devastated by an earthquake. The earthquake may have led to landslides that blocked the river’s flow from the mountains and reduced or cut off Sanxingdui’s water supply.
This may force Sanxingdui to relocate. There is some evidence for this theory: a record from 1099 BC tells of an earthquake about 400 miles away, in the Zhou capital. It is likely that Sanxingdui also felt this earthquake. In addition, there is evidence from the geological record that supports the idea that an earthquake occurred in the vicinity about 3,000 years ago.
There is another site about 30 miles (48 km) from Sanxingdui in an area known as Jinsha, where artifacts were discovered that bear some resemblance to those at Sanxingdui. Archaeologists also believe that the earthquake may have forced the Sanxingdui to move to Jinsha, where they rebuilt their society.
Of all the suggested causes of Sanxingdui’s disappearance that have been discovered, earthquakes and the move to Jinsha are probably the most likely explanations. While the idea of resettlement sounds plausible, it still doesn’t explain or show why people throw away, burn, and then bury their belongings in those pits. If they moved to Jinsha, why aren’t the artifacts here exactly the same as those found in Sanxingdui but instead have only a few similarities?
Perhaps more evidence will come to light when further excavations are completed. Until then these facts about this civilization were still considered a mystery to modern mankind.
References: Historicmysteries; Xinhua; Sina