A palatial discovery

Updated: Jul 15, 2022 By Yang Feiyue and Sun Ruisheng China Daily Print
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A bird's-eye view of Taosi site, located in Xiangfen county, Linfen, North China's Shanxi province. [PHOTO BY LI XIANJUN/FOR CHINA DAILY]

Ongoing excavation of ruins at Taosi, Shanxi province, may hold the key to the forming of prehistoric Chinese civilizations, report Yang Feiyue in Beijing and Sun Ruisheng in Taiyuan.

Editor's note: A national comprehensive research program, launched in 2002, to trace the origins of Chinese civilization, has led to the excavations and studies of key sites that are about 3,500 to 5,500 years old. It has revealed a host of secrets about ancient China, including how early civilizations were formed and how they merged to create unity in diversity. China Daily speaks to experts working at these sites to decode their recent discoveries.

More than six decades ago, a group of archaeologists descended on Taosi site in Xiangfen county, Linfen, North China's Shanxi province, looking for clues about the early phase of the Xia Dynasty (c.21st century-16th century BC), the first central dynasty recorded in Chinese history. While they did not exactly find what they wanted, they chanced upon something bigger and beyond their expectations.

Stunning evidence of urbanization, including palaces, elite residential areas, cemeteries of the social elites, enceinte (fortified enclosures) and ceremonial centers, found since the first general survey of cultural relics in the 1950s, has earned the cluster of excavation sites a special mention in the annals of archaeology.

"Some scholars deemed Erlitou, (discovered in the late 1950s) in Central China's Henan province, the capital of the late Xia Dynasty," says He Nu, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "Hence, they were looking for evidence of the city in the dynasty's early phase."

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