Feature | Sanxingdui Site: How many mysteries have not been solved yet?

  The Paper Journalist He Liquan Xuhui

  On March 29, Pit No. 8 with "strong metal detection response" was dug to the ashes, and more precious cultural relics may be unveiled in the future.

This is the third time that the Sanxingdui site in Guanghan, Sichuan has surprised the world after more than a thousand cultural relics were unearthed in the two "sacrifice pits" 35 years ago.

  According to the “Archaeological China” major project work progress report on March 20, in the six newly discovered “sacrifice pits”, fragments of golden masks, bird-shaped gold ornaments, painted copper heads, giant bronze masks, etc. have been unearthed in the six newly discovered “sacrifice pits”. There are more than 500 important cultural relics such as bronze sacred trees and ivory.

  Sanxingdui is the largest and highest-level central site discovered in the Xia-Shang period in the Sichuan Basin.

In 1986, more than a thousand precious cultural relics such as bronze statues, bronze statues, bronze trees, golden masks, and golden rods were unearthed in the No. 1 and No. 2 "sacrifice pits". Many of them are unique in shape and have never been seen before, revealing a brand new The face of the bronze culture.

  Chen Dean served as the head of the Sanxingdui Archaeological Workstation for more than 20 years, during which he presided over the excavation of Pit No. 1 and No. 2.

In December 2019, the "sacrifice pit" appeared on the 3rd. He had retired at that time and rushed to the scene after hearing the news.

Knowing that the filling of Pit No. 3 is similar to Pit No. 2, where major cultural relics have been unearthed, Chen De'an asserted that “there will be large artifacts”.

  "This excavation made the relationship between Sanxingdui and the culture of the same period of the Yellow and Yangtze River basins clearer." Chen Dean said in an interview with The Paper recently that Sanxingdui civilization is not a native civilization of independent origin, but is deeply influenced by Xia and Shang civilization techniques and rituals. Influence and interact with the civilization of the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River.

Initially, the newly unearthed cultural relics provide new evidence for this.

  At the same time, there are still some mysteries to be solved.

The Yinxu ruins (the site of the capital of the late Shang Dynasty, 1319-1046 BC), which is close to the "sacrifice pit" at the Sanxingdui site, have a mature writing system. Why is there still no writing in Sanxingdui?

After bronze technology was introduced from the Central Plains to the Chengdu Plain, where are so many superbly crafted artworks made in Sanxingdui?

Where are the raw materials obtained?

These have yet to be further explored and studied to verify.

"There is no evidence that Sanxingdui has cultural exchanges with ancient West Asia, Egypt and other places"

  The academic circles generally believe that the ancient Shu civilization represented by Sanxingdui and the Central Plains Xia and Shang dynasties are inextricably linked.

In the Sanxingdui site, the ceremonial utensils, bronze statues, bronze lei, and copper bells evolved from jade cong, jade bi, jade ge, and yazhang are all in the style of the Central Plains.

The relics of these styles were basically formed at the Erlitou site in the late Xia Dynasty, and a considerable part of it was inherited by the Shang Dynasty.

  The bronze Dakouzun, Fangzun and other artifacts unearthed in Pit 3 this time are all common bronzes in the Shang Dynasty, although they differ in their specific patterns.

More intuitively, the newly unearthed "owl" shape statue was the first to be discovered in Sanxingdui, and the "owl" shape statue was also found at the Yin Ruins site thousands of miles away.

  "Some of the cultural relics discovered this time are very closely related to the Shang civilization and the civilization of the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River." Chen De'an told The Paper.

  For example, the early bronzes of Sanxingdui are similar to those of the early Shang Erligang culture, the early Yin Ruins, and the Shang dynasty bronzes in Gaocheng, Hebei; especially some bronze wares, jade wares, and building foundations including animal faces. Close to the early Shang Erligang culture; Liangzhu style jade tools earlier than Sanxingdui also appeared in the Sanxingdui and Jinsha sites.

  "Of course, the connection between these bronzes and jade wares is not the flow of finished products, but the input of etiquette concepts and technology." Chen Dean said, this also shows that from the early Shang Erligang cultural period to the late Shang Yinxu cultural period, the ancient Shu and the Shang dynasty And there are exchanges between the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River. In addition to the Shang Dynasty’s politics and etiquette, they also have technical and resource exchanges, such as bronze smelting and jade production.

  Chen De'an stated that the ancient Shu culture has two routes in its foreign exchanges, east and north. To the east is from the Three Gorges area into the Nanyang Basin and then to the Central Plains area; to the north is to enter the Nanyang area through the Suizao Corridor, and then to the Central Plains area.

He explained that the Central Plains civilization simultaneously influenced ancient Shu and the civilization of the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, and there was interaction between the Chengdu Plain and the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River. On this basis, a unique "Sanxingdui civilization" was formed.

"In the communication between the Shu civilization and the Central Plains civilization, the Ba culture in the middle plays a very important role." Chen Dean believes that the Ba nation in the Shang Dynasty played a role as a media or post in the communication between Shu and the Shang dynasty.

  According to different styles, Chen Dean divided the bronzes in the Sanxingdui site into three categories.

"The first type is close to the Erligang culture of the early Shang Dynasty to the Yinxu culture of the late Shang Dynasty. The second type has some elements common to the culture of the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River and the Chengdu Plain. The last type is purely local features, such as unique styles. The bronze masks, vertical-eye masks, large bronze statues, sacred trees, golden masks, etc.," said Chen De'an.

  It is also the peculiar appearance of “star” cultural relics such as Zongmu masks and Dali portraits that have made some netizens connect the Sanxingdui civilization with foreign civilizations.

"From the current unearthed cultural relics, there is no evidence that Sanxingdui has cultural exchanges with ancient West Asia, Egypt and other places." Chen Dean said that ancient natural religions originated from natural phenomena, and the ancients saw the same natural phenomena, and the objects of worship were also In the same way, the gods they created have the same or similar aspects, which is also normal. "The cultural connection depends on the genes of the culture, not on the surface."

The sacrificial artifacts were buried in a concentrated manner, and experts speculated that it was caused by the "change of those in power"

  During the excavation, the archaeologists noticed that most of the artifacts in Sanxingdui had been smashed or burned. In addition, five flat stone slabs and burnt soil blocks were found in Pit No. 8, and that in Pit No. 4 and 3. Ashes and carbon chips appeared in Pit No.

Ran Honglin, the executive leader of the Sanxingdui site excavation, said in an interview with the media that based on this series of phenomena, these artifacts may have come from another ritual site. For some reason, the building was burned down and the artifacts were transferred and buried in pits after the house collapsed.

  Previously, many scholars judged based on the pits 1 and 2 of the Sanxingdui site that these pits were formed at one time and belonged to the "burial pits of artifacts of the country."

However, the latest excavation of Pit No. 4 proved to be in the late Shang Dynasty, later than Pit No. 1 and 2. This means that the formation of these pits occurred first and later.

  "Everyone tends to think that this is a burial area of ​​sacrificial objects in the ancient Shu Kingdom from the early to late Yin Ruins." Chen De'an told The Paper that building components were found in Pit No. 8, and some of the pits may also include ashes from burning. This further illustrates the formation of the six pits at the Sanxingdui site. It is possible that the ancestral temple was abandoned after the artifacts in the temple were moved out, and they were buried outside the temple in a ceremonial form. It tends to think that the process behavior from temple to pit is ritual and belongs to sacrificial pit".

  Chen Dean speculated that the aforementioned phenomenon occurred in the sacrificial pit of Sanxingdui site, or it was due to a change in the power holder that the new power holder buried the sacrificial artifacts of the former power holder in a concentrated manner.

He believes that the Sanxingdui culture has a wide range of influence. The Chengdu Plain, Chongqing Fuling Yangtze River, Jialing River Basin, Fujiang River Basin, Dadu River Basin, etc. have found related sites, and different tribes are active in these places.

  "Sanxingdui is the political center of the ancient Shu Kingdom. Different tribes have been in power on this political stage. Although everyone may come from the same ancestor, they will still choose ancestors with closer bloodlines to sacrifice in the ancestral temple." Chen De'an believes that because of this, the new generation of those in power may “destroy” the sacrificial artifacts they used after they overthrew the previous regime.

"It's not that it is burned, smashed, or buried casually, but a specific ceremony will be held to replace the ancestral temple sacrificial artifacts." Chen De'an said.

  The artifacts were destroyed and buried, which also brought difficulties to the restoration work.

Yang Xiaowu, a master of cultural relic restoration, is known as "the master of restoration of Sanxingdui cultural relics". Although he has retired for many years and the restoration work has been taken over by "apprentices", he still can't help but wander around the excavation site recently.

"Each cultural relic has different degrees of oxidation and corrosion, and the restoration method is different, but in general, it will take a long time." Yang Xiaowu said that some of the cultural relics unearthed in Pit No. 1 and No. 2 have not been repaired so far.

  "From this excavation, many sacrificial artifacts were broken or even burned, and then buried in the pit, layered with rammed soil, and the damage was serious. Some were simply burnt and deformed and melted." Yang Xiaowu Said that, for example, the newly unearthed residual gold mask is already in a "semi-melted" state.

According to him, he took his apprentice to repair the "Bronze Sacred Tree", which took 7 years.

Sanxingdui and Jinsha civilization once "coexisted"

  The Sanxingdui site and the Jinsha site are both on the Chengdu Plain, only about 50 kilometers apart. Because many of the unearthed cultural relics have similar styles, the relationship between the two is often concerned by academic circles.

Earlier, because only two pits 1 and 2 were discovered in Sanxingdui, many archaeologists judged that "internal strife" had occurred in Sanxingdui. Residents rushed to bury cultural relics in the pits and then moved their capital to Jinsha, leading to the disappearance of Sanxingdui culture.

Some new evidence emerged in this excavation overturned this "hypothesis."

  Huang Yujie, director of the exhibition and preservation department of the Jinsha Site Museum, told The Paper that from the earliest pits 1 and 2 at the Sanxingdui site to the most recent sacrificial pits, there are many similarities between them and the Jinsha site. doubt.

  "For example, this newly unearthed golden mask is very similar to the golden mask of our Jinsha site. The ancient Shu people used the most noble gold to make masks, and then used them in sacrificial rituals as humans and gods. The medium of communication." Huang Yujie said, this further reflects the cultural inheritance, absorption and integration of the two relics of Sanxingdui and Jinsha from the side.

However, it is also necessary to realize that the cultural relics unearthed between the two sites have similarities and differences. "Jinsha is based on the inheritance of the Sanxingdui civilization, with certain development and some changes."

  The Sichuan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology has recently combined with Peking University to analyze 73 charcoal samples from 6 newly discovered pits at the Sanxingdui site using the carbon 14 dating method to make a preliminary determination of the age distribution range. Among them, the 4th pit is the most dated. It may be from 1199 BC to 1017 BC, which is about 3200 to 3000 years ago.

This confirms that the chronology of the newly discovered No. 4 pit carbon 14 in Sanxingdui belongs to the late Shang Dynasty.

  Zheng Manli, deputy director of the Heritage Protection and Research Department of the Jinsha Site Museum, believes that the age of the Jinsha civilization was about 3200 years ago. The time when the Jinsha sacrificial activities were carried out actually had a coexistence relationship." Zheng Manli said.

  "The relationship between Sanxingdui and Jinsha did not end as a political center, but another place emerged." Chen De'an told The Paper that Sanxingdui was an important political center of the ancient Shu Kingdom, "permeating the entire Shang Dynasty", while Jinsha was an important political center of the ancient Shu Kingdom. It is very likely to exist as a "second center", "split from Sanxingdui."

"Whether this sub-center is caused by the split regime caused by the'internal struggle', or the result of the Sanxingdui Ancient Shu Kingdom taking the initiative to develop the southern part of the Chengdu Plain, or other reasons, needs further study." Chen Dean said. Sanxingdui and Jinsha, as two similar civilizations, "are not quite right now."

The two cultural inheritance genes are the same, and the shapes of the artifacts are almost the same, so they belong to the ancient Shu civilization with Sanxingdui as the political center in the Shang Dynasty.

  Chen De'an introduced that after the Zhou eradication of the Shang, the Shang Shu cultural structure of Sanxingdui and Jinsha was broken by the Western Zhou culture, and the history opened a new page. This can be seen in comparison with the cultural remains of the Western Zhou Dynasty in the Chengdu area with the Jinsha site as the center. clear.

Starting from the Western Zhou Dynasty, the center of ancient Shu civilization was in Jinsha, and Chengdu's time as a regional political center also began from this time.

  "The newly excavated cultural relics and new discoveries in Sanxingdui will provide more physical examples for the subsequent clarification of the relationship between Sanxingdui and Jinsha culture." Huang Yujie told The Paper, which will also help to further improve the Chengdu Plain from the late Neolithic to ancient times. The cultural development context of the late Shu civilization.

The ivory in the Sanxingdui site may come from local

  Like the Sanxingdui site excavation in 1986, the excavation also found "ivory" in multiple pits.

In the Jinsha site, several tons of ivory were also unearthed, and according to the test, these ivory came from the Asian elephant group.

  Huang Yujie told The Paper that ivory was regularly placed in the pit, which probably reflected that it played a very important role in the sacrificial activities of the ancient Shu people, and it may be an important sacrifice for the gods of the ancient Shu people. .

Huang Yujie said that in the early days of the Chengdu Plain, rivers were flooded and disasters, and ivory in the eyes of the ancients had the effect of killing water monsters, so the use of ivory to sacrifice may be the spiritual sustenance of the ancient Shu people.

  Huang Yujie introduced that a jade strip unearthed from the Jinsha site depicts an ancient Shu people carrying ivory on their shoulders to make sacrifices. This also provides a very important object for archaeologists to study the sacrifice activities of the ancient Shu people at that time. research material.

On the other hand, the large bronze figure unearthed in Pit 2 of the Sanxingdui site, double up and one up and down, with the palms closed as if holding objects. Some scholars have speculated that this is the scene of the ancient Shu people clasping ivory with their hands.

  Where do these ivory come from?

Previously, some scholars believed that these ivory came from civilizations such as India.

In this regard, Huang Yujie said that the ivory counted in tons was unearthed at the Jinsha site alone. It is not realistic to communicate from other places. Therefore, the ivory in the site may come from a local elephant group.

  According to her, the temperature in the ancient Shu period should be higher than it is now. At that time, the literature also recorded the existence of elephants in the Central Plains.

In addition, archaeologists also found a large number of dominant herbaceous plants at the Jinsha site, which means that at the time, at least the Chengdu Plain may have a warm tropical and subtropical climate, with an annual average temperature of about 2 degrees Celsius higher than the present.

  Huang Yujie said that elephant teeth, mandibles and ivory have been unearthed in the Chengdu Plain. Although other parts of the elephant body have not been discovered so far, archaeology is a process of exploring the unknown, and there will be no more evidence to be discovered in the future. It is not yet known.

Can you find the text?

Where is the "Sanxingdui Factory"?

  There are 8 sacrificial pits with a large number of bronzes, jade and other cultural relics in the Sanxingdui site, which are formed in a similar age to the late Shang Yin Ruins site in Anyang, Henan.

The Yin Ruins are world-famous for the unearthed oracle bone inscriptions, but no writing has been found at the Sanxingdui site so far.

He Yuling, a researcher at the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and deputy station director of Anyang Workstation, said earlier that for the excavation of the Sanxingdui site, what he most looked forward to was to find words on the unearthed bronzes.

  At the news briefing on the archaeological achievements of the Sanxingdui site on March 20, the leader of the archaeological team, Ran Honglin, responded to the question of whether the text was found in Sanxingdui that many people were concerned about.

He said that at this stage of the archaeological exploration of Sanxingdui, no exact words have been found, but relevant symbols have been found on the pottery. "We tend to believe that the Sanxingdui site has words."

  Sun Hua, a professor at the Jinsha Site, Peking University's School of Archaeology, Arts and Sciences, said in an interview with Jiemian News that in the era of Sanxingdui, the Central Plains civilization also only appeared in words, so there may be no words in Sanxingdui.

But in the cultures after Sanxingdui, such as the "Twelve Bridges Culture", or the "Golden Sands Era", people should have mastered the writing, because they had contact with Zhou people.

  Some experts speculate that the reason why the characters have not been found in Sanxingdui, or because the ancient Shu people write characters on objects that are more easily damaged, such as woodware and textiles.

During the excavation, "traces of silk" were indeed found, which appeared in the ashes of the sacrificial pit and around some bronze wares, which seemed to be used as packages.

  Also missing is the "Bronze Workshop Area" in Sanxingdui.

Sanxingdui restoration master Yang Xiaowu told The Paper that unlike the Central Plains, Sanxingdui bronzes were made without "molds", but were made individually one by one. Therefore, many bronze artifacts, including the "Zongmu Mask", have "repairs". Cast" traces.

  "After the (bronze) was cast, there were some damage, or the copper water did not arrive, but the re-casting was time-consuming and labor-intensive. The ancient Shu people simply used the method of recasting to repair it." Yang Xiaowu said, this It can also be explained that the casting of Sanxingdui bronzes was done in a local or nearby "factory", especially some large bronzes, which are difficult to transport from outside the Chengdu Plain, but where the "factory" is, "has not been found yet." ".

  In an interview with Xinhua News Agency, Lei Yu, director of the Sanxingdui Site Workstation of the Sichuan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, said, “The next problem that needs to be solved urgently is the handicraft workshop area, especially the bronze workshop area.” In addition, it is necessary to find relevant places of worship and worship. Tombs of ancient Shu kings, etc.

  According to The Paper, on March 29, five stone slabs with a flat surface, burnt soil blocks, and oval carbonized wood were discovered in the No. 8 pit under excavation on March 29.

Archaeologists infer that Pit No. 8 is the first remains clearly related to the sacrificial building.

But where is the real place of worship is still inconclusive.