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Technology Helps Urgent Conservation of Cultural Relics in Three Gorges Area

By DENG, YANICHONGQING|Oct 01,2022

Chongqing – In recent years, Chongqing has gained momentum in archaeology, with significant archaeological discoveries and research results released. Advanced science and technology play an essential role.

Bai Jiujiang, President of Chongqing Municipal Research Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, introduced that they have purchased 11 large-scale scientific and technological archaeological equipment.

“It cost more than 15 million yuan to bring the technological equipment to the research institute, such as the archaeological CT detector machine. It is the first archaeological CT detector in the country with the scanning electron microscope, precision 3D scanners, and ultra-depth-of-field microscopes.”

Archaeology CT Detector. (Photo provided to iChongqing)

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is widely used in archaeological work, significantly improving the over-the-horizon and digital capabilities. Currently, our city has taken the lead in applying molecular biotechnology in China’s archaeology field. It has been used in DNA testing human bones in tombs like the Daxi site. In addition, archaeologists have successfully extracted Cuban DNA from the Xiaotianxi tomb in Fuling District in Chongqing, which has opened up a new perspective for studying the ethnicity and population relationship of ancient populations in Chongqing.

Archaeologists have confirmed the earliest and longest history of salt production in East Asia since the late Neolithic period by detecting surface calcifications and liquid inclusions of pottery fragments in the Zhongba and Zhongjingba sites. 

The significant archaeological discoveries of the earliest firearms in the world have been confirmed in Chongqing by analyzing and researching the production process of iron land mines and the composition of black gunpowder at Baidi City, Diaoyu Fortress, and other sites. 

The iron land mine was discovered in Fengjie Baidi City Ruins. (Photo provided to iChongqing)

Experts have tested more than 70 samples collected from more than ten zinc-smelting sites through metallographic microscopy. They identified the world’s earliest smelting technology of elemental zinc with fire below and condensation above, sorting out its significant findings, such as the age, mineral source, composition, furnace temperature, and technological process.

“The city plans to use three years to complete the urgent conservation of 12,000 cultural relics unearthed in the Three Gorges and eliminate the danger of cultural relics,” said Zhong Bingbing, deputy director of the China Three Gorges Museum in Chongqing.

In January this year, the National Cultural Heritage Administration approved the protection and restoration project of cultural relics unearthed in the Three Gorges area in 2022, compiled by the Chongqing China Three Gorges Museum. 

The project involves 2412 sets of cultural relics unearthed in the Three Gorges, which come from nine districts and counties of Chongqing. The project is in full swing and will be completed by the end of next year. 

“At the Daxi Site and the Dashuitian Site, researchers have discovered more than 600 prehistoric tombs, many sacrificial pits, animal pits, fish pits, and other relics reflecting the spiritual activities and ideologies of prehistoric human beings,” said Bai Jiujiang.

They did scientific and archaeological research on human bones and the composition of human food at that time. They also found some sculptures of prehistoric art and some very delicate decorations, as well as Daxi Ruins and the living economy of Daxi culture. 

“In addition, we clarified the relationship between the Daxi culture in the east of Chongqing and the Yuxi upper culture in the west of Chongqing,” added Bai. Because of these important discoveries, the Daxi Site was also awarded the “100 Great Archaeological Discoveries in 100 Years”, and the Dashuitian Site also entered the final list of the top ten new archaeological discoveries in China in that year.

Chongqing archaeology plays a vital role in Chinese archaeology. And it extends the historical axis of Chinese prehistoric civilization and demonstrates the integration and development of Chinese civilization.

The Fanjiayan historic site is located in Diaoyu Fortress in the Hechuan District of Chongqing. (Photo provided to iChongqing)

(Chen Qian, as an intern, also contributed to the report.)

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