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Women's Archaeological Team in Chongqing Shines in Cultural Relics Excavation and Research | Women Power

By YAN DENG|Mar 08,2023

Chongqing - Dedicated to unearthing cultural memories, a team of female archaeological workers from Chongqing Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute (CQA) has been pursuing fieldwork for over a decade. 

The women's archaeological team was established in 2012 and has organized more than ten field surveys and exploration projects in the past decade. Led by Yan Ni, they have participated in the WanZhou District's Shuanghukou Reservoir cultural relics survey and exploration project and the Hechuan Diaoyu City site archaeological work.

On March 6, 2023, Yan Ni, the leader of the women's archaeological team, conducted a preliminary site survey at the Bai Ma Aeronautical and Electrical Hub Cultural Relics Protection Project in Wulong District. (Photo/Tang Yi)

Due to the special nature of fieldwork, most archaeologists are men. In recent years, more and more women archaeologists have interpreted the power of women with love and persistence.

In May 2022, at the stage excavation site of the Fuling Xiaotianxi Tomb Group in Chongqing, archaeological team members squatted in a gray pit under the scorching sun, and their long-term fieldwork had tanned their skin into wheat color. Yan Ni introduced, "The unearthed cultural relics in the gray pit indicate that there may have been an early Ba people's settlement for production and life around the excavation area in the Shang and Zhou Dynasties (about 1600 - 256 BC)."

Excavation site of the Xiaotianxi tombs in Fuling District, Chongqing, on May 24, 2022. (Photo/Tang Yi)

"Archaeology is not a romantic thing. Most of the time, it is boring and rigorous. All speculations require us to constantly search for evidence and excavate people's stories behind the objects," Yan Ni added that this process is exciting, which is the charm of archaeology.

It's not all about the thrill of discovery, however. Inside an office, another team member, Zhu Xuelian, sits at a computer, meticulously sketching the intricate designs on a pottery fragment. 

A female member of the archaeological team, Zhu Xuelian, measures the size of unearthed artifacts. (Photo/Tang Yi)

Zhu Xuelian said they are a multi-departmental and coordinated archaeological team, covering professional technical talents in field excavation, technological archaeology, object restoration, and drawing.

"Archaeological drawing is an important part of archaeological data collation, and it takes patience to engage in this work." Zhu Xuelian sat in front of the computer all day, "If it is a complexly patterned utensil, you can draw only two pieces a day at most."

Female archaeologists spend over 200 days in field archaeology out of 365 days a year. The rest of the time will be spent on researching archaeological achievements and writing archaeological reports.

"Excavation is the most basic work in archaeology. Follow-up repair, drawing, and map-making research work need to be carried out to release research results to the public," Zhu Xuelian added.

Working together, learning from each other, and constantly improving their skills during each excavation project, the nine members of the female archaeology team have all become experts in their respective fields. For instance, Mao Xiaojiao, who joined the team in 2011, and Li Feng, who joined in 2014, specialize in plant archaeology.

"Our nine team members can now independently lead investigations and excavations," said Yan Ni. "Three more young girls joined us for this archaeological work in Wulong District, and they are students from the field archaeology training class."

The third phase of the field archaeology training class in Chongqing, hosted by the CQA, was launched recently. More than ten cultural and archaeological workers from various districts and counties in Chongqing entered the training class, and over half were female.

The third field archaeology training class in Chongqing, March 6, 2023. (Photo/Tang Yi)

Xiang Jinglu, a post-90s cultural and archaeological worker from the Fuling District Museum in Chongqing, feels that every day is full of freshness. "I've never been out in the field in the district before, but with this field training, I can be responsible for a probe and carry out excavation work under the guidance of the teachers. I am full of expectations," said Xiang Jinglu, who plans to return to Fuling District to continue exploring the stories behind cultural relics in the future.


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