I have always found archaeology interesting and fascinating, that it’s so inspiring to see how the archaeologists discover different sites, and by using their knowledge of history, explain to us everything about what was the world like a long time ago.


During the Christmas holidays, I was fortunate enough to visit the archaeological site of Baodun in Chengdu, Sichuan.


The heritage site of Baodun was first discovered in 1995 and was confirmed to be a heritage around the same time as the famous Sanxingdui site, both representing the prehistoric world in China. The Baodun culture is a very important part of Chinese history, as the bricks and tiles at the site proved that there was already a civilised society around four or five thousands years ago.


Personally, it was a very interesting and educational visit, that it was the first time I realise that archaeology wasn’t just digging things out of the ground, that there were clear rules and regulations about how to discover those ancient heritages. For example, the archaeologists had to split the sites into different grids, and each would be labelled carefully for references.


One of the most fascinating facts that I discovered, was that archaeology was actually quite closely linked to geology, especially in those prehistoric sites that might be buried many times. For example, in the Baodun site, the archaeologists had to look at the different layers of soil, and decide which one came after the other, how they had different colours, different textures, and how they were overriding each other in order to fill up the channel that was no longer used in the Song dynasty. Therefore they could see how the site changed throughout history, and therefore come up with a conclusion about the site.


The other thing that I discovered was that there is one thing that really limited the ability of archaeologists, which was the maintenance of the relics, that they are often so weak and fragile when they have been discovered, that if not being cared for very carefully, they might become damaged, and therefore lose the value for the historians to identify the information about relics. For example, I spoke to one of the archaeologists at the site, and he told me that when he was discovering another site with his team, they found a beautiful gold accessory/decoration at the site, however, as oxidation happened so quickly, not even the camera could capture its true colour, that all they could do was to watch the stunning golden relic turned grey in a matter of seconds. What a shame!


This is the reason why, he also told me, that even though the Sanxingdui site hasn’t yet been discovered fully yet, that all the relics in the museum was actually only from a few small grids, they still couldn’t continue digging and discovering more about it, that they were concerned about not having the ability to maintain the relics in their perfect form, and lose its value. Therefore, the mystery of Sanxingdui would still be left as a question for some more time, until they could start exploring again, find new relics, so we could really see the true purpose of the whole Sanxingdui site.


(PS. Just for reference in case you don’t know, Sanxingdui is an archaeological site and a major Bronze Age culture in modern Guanghan, Sichuan, China. It was first discovered in 1929 but haven’t been largely discovered until 1986. The relics that appeared at the site were very mysterious, including lots of bronze masks/heads, and some had gold foil on it, but they were way too big for humans to use. There was also a 2.6m tall and 180kg bronze tree, as well as lots of beautiful and smooth jade that we had no idea how the ancestors managed to do with the ancient technologies. Archaeologists thought the relics at Sanxingdui explained the religious part of the ancient kingdom of Shu which existed 12th–11th centuries BCE)


Overall, I think archaeology is such a wonderful subject to look into, that we could learn more about the world before us, as well as the world that we are living now, as history links everything together. Last but not least, I’m so looking forward to the development of technology, that archaeology would have more technical advances, so more relics could be kept, and more mysteries solved!



Yanjun Zhou