600-Year-Old Mines Unearthed in Inner Mongolia

Archaeologists discovered over 20 ancient land mines dating back over 600 years in Togtoh County of northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, sources said today.

It is the first time that Chinese archaeologists unearthed landmines from the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Experts believed that the discovery is of great importance for the research of defense deployment and facilities, especially the structure of the mines and the composition of powder made during the Ming Dynasty.

The old land mines came in two sizes. The bigger one weighs 1.7kg, 11 cm in diameter; the smaller one weighs 0.8 kg, 8.5 cm in diameter.

The mine, which was made of iron and shaped like a ball, has a protrusion about 0.6 cm tall and three cm in diameter. A hole 0.5 cm in diameter is found in the middle of the protrusion, which experts believe was used for loading powder and detonating powder.

Archaeologists also discovered black or a yellow-grey powder inthe mines.

Togtoh County is located on a mesa of a mountainside by the Yellow River. The place could guard the river and was an importantmilitary place at that time.

The county witnessed fierce battles in 1368 between troops of the newly established Ming Dynasty and armies of the late Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).

Archaeologists said the unearthed land mines were siege arms ofthe Ming troops.

A dozen kg of iron pellets believed to be used for the cannons of the Ming troops were also unearthed near the site where the land mines were found.

The Ming Dynasty was at the height of powder manufacturing and usage and it was also an important period for China's ancient weapon development.

Before the Togtoh discovery, archaeologists had only discovered iron cannons made during the Ming Dynasty, and land mines and the miracle "rocket" written in history books had not appeared.

(Eastday.com.cn 04/11/2001)