At two building sites in Xian, one of China’s oldest cities and host to the terracotta force, thousands of archaeologically important discoveries have been uncovered, causing archeologists to miss holidays and work overtime.
During the Lunar New Year break, more than 1,000 archaeologists and assistants have been working nonstop to dig up cultural relics in Xian to prevent halting construction projects. In the 1970s, the world-famous terracotta army of life-size soldier statues, part of the mausoleum of the first emperor of China, was found in Xian, the capital of the province of Shaanxi in northwestern China.
According to the cultural heritage office of Shaanxi, recent archaeological finds were discovered on sites planned for a 76-hectare (189-acre) airport expansion and a 50-kilometer (31-mile) subway section.
“The number and scale of the relics is huge and the workload of archaeological excavation is enormous,” the bureau added.
Meanwhile, more than 1,300 tombs and four ancient kilns have been found since excavation for the subway began in April, according to another bureau post. The planned subway is to run through a district densely populated with tombs dating back to the Sui and Tang dynasties (581- 907).Archaeologists have worked overtime to make sure the construction projects were not delayed too long, the bureau said.
Xian was ancient China’s capital for 13 dynasties – a total of 1,100 years. Now a regional transport hub, the city has had an infrastructure boom over the past decade and there have been important archaeological finds on numerous construction sites.
Work on constructing the first metro line in the city started in 2007 and Xian had eight metro lines and a total of 244 km of subway by the end of last year. On each of the sections, archaeologically interesting findings were found during the excavations.
During the building of university campuses in Xian, tombs were discovered belonging to prominent historical figures. During the construction of a new campus at the Northwest University of Political Science and Law in 2002, archaeologists discovered the tomb of Zhang Tang, a top judicial official of the Han dynasty (206BC-AD220AD).
A year earlier, the tomb of Li Chui, a princess from the Tang dynasty (618-907), was discovered on the campus of Xian University of Technology. There is so much heritage underground in Xian that archaeologists are frequently called to work at construction sites, local officials said.
“In Xian, before any construction project starts, or before the government sells a certain parcel of land, an archaeological survey is carried out. This is rare in China,” Wang Zili, deputy director of the Xian Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, told the People’s Daily newspaper.
More than 100 archaeological discoveries are made every year in Shaanxi province, well known to be an important source of Chinese culture for the Chinese nation, said Zhou Kuiying, deputy head of the provincial cultural relics bureau, at a press conference last month.
“These remains cover every period in history – from the origin of man to the last imperial Qing dynasty,” he said. “I’d say that every discovery is culturally meaningful and worth studying.”
Since staff began constructing the new terminal and supporting facilities at Xianyang International Airport in July, more than 4,600 discoveries of archaeological interest, including 3,500 graves, have been found, the bureau said on Weibo, China’s Twitter, this week.