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Ice Age Relic Discovered in Beijing
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A massive glacier valley dating back 2.5 million years has been found in Beijing.


Geologists claimed the special landforms in Bailong Valley in Mentougou District in western Beijing were formed by the corrosion of ancient glaciers that existed during the Ice Age of the Quaternary Period, between 2 and 3 million years ago.


The district is preparing to turn the valley into a glacier geological park to preserve the relics and provide a research base for scientists, Liu Dequan, a local government official, said.


Wang Hongjie, a senior engineer of a geological survey team under the Ministry of Land and Resources, discovered the glacier relics earlier this year.


"In the middle of the valley, a large boulder caught my eye immediately because it was quite strange among the surrounding environment," Wang told China Daily yesterday.


Wang climbed to the top of the 7-m-long boulder and found glacier scrapes on its top surface.


"The scrapes on the boulder are well preserved," Wang said.


"Hiding in dense forest and weighing about 100 tons, the boulder, moved by a glacier from a mountaintop, cannot be shifted by hand. Since the scrape surface faces to the sky, human activities failed to destroy them."


The boulder's scrape area measures 40 sq m, 40 times that of Beijing's other large glacier scrape, the Badachu glacier scrape.


Scientists believe northern China was covered by ice 2 or 3 million years ago.


Three glacier relics have been discovered in the city.


"If the older discoveries can be seen as a flower or a leaf, the newly discovered relics can be regarded as a garden," Wang said.


The Bailong glacier valley contains a large number of glacial landforms including a u-shaped valley, cirques, large glacier boulders, moraine gravel and glacial depression, experts said.


"Geologists have very limited knowledge of ancient glacier distribution in northern China," Han Tonglin, a professor of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, said.


"It is the first time that massive glacier relics have been found in north China, which might help us understand ancient climate in China, gather information on animals and plants living more than 2 million years ago, and trace the evolution of ancient human races," Han said.


The Quaternary Period marked the beginning of the evolution of human beings.


Han conducted a primary inspection of the 2-km-long valley last month and predicted that a nearby 1-km valley might also be an ancient glacier valley.


"Further inspection will begin in winter after the trees shed leaves to make way for us to enter the valley," Han said.


"Glacier relics can also help us predict global climate trends, trace the beginning of global warming and predict possible global cooling in the future.


"Looking back on the climate history of the Earth, we need not be fussy about the extreme weather events happening in recent years as they are hardly anything new."


(China Daily September 4, 2007)

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