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Gorges Artifacts Add to Study of Early Chinese Civilization
A noted archeologist says recent archeological findings in the Three Gorges area might prove the diversified origins of China's millenniums-old civilization.

Wang Chuanping, deputy director of the Chongqing Municipal Culture Bureau, said that archeological evidence found during the past few years had added a clue to the widely debated theory that civilization emerged independently in the country's different areas.

Wang said part of China's civilization originated from the Yangtze River valley, as evidenced by artifacts dating back to Old and New Stone age cultures discovered in the Three Gorges area.

The highly developed ancient cultures spotted along the Yangtze River rivaled those originating in central and north China's Yellow River valley, which was long seen as the "cradle of the Chinese people."

Personalities in the Chinese academic circle have long debated whether civilization arose in the Yangtze River independently of the already widely acknowledged roots in the Yellow River valley.

Few scientists agreed that there might have been another origin Chinese civilization, which is long believed to have developed from "Zhongyuan", a popular Chinese term referred mainly to the Yellow River valley in central and north China.

But it has become increasingly apparent and clear that great prehistoric highly developed cultures developed along the Yangtze River, especially in the Three Gorges area, as more and more artifacts have been unearthed in the area facing inundation.

A complete map of how China's ancient civilization developed and flourished in the Yangtze River valley can now be clearly seen, said archeological experts.

Experts said the Three Gorges area had long served as a bridge for cultural exchanges between China's east and west, south and north, proof of the multiple origin theory of China's civilization.

Last year China blocked the gigantic Yangtze River at the Three Gorges, creating the world's biggest reservoir.

However, the building of the Three Gorges dam sparked anxiety and worries among some renowned archeologists that a wealth of cultural relics providing evidence of prehistoric cultures would be submerged and lost forever.

To salvage the centuries-old legacy of their ancestors, more than 7,000 noted archeological experts, academics and technicians were summoned from across China to protect artifacts in the Three Gorges area.

The dam's sluice gate was shut on June 1 to officially begin water filling.

Artifacts scattered around the vast reservoir area include prehistoric cultural relics dating back to the Old Stone Age over 2 million years ago, cultural sites of successive ancient dynasties from the Xia Dynasty (21st Century BC to 16th Century BC) to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

"These archeological findings unearthed in Three Gorges area fully show that the area is a major part of China's ancient cultures," You said, adding that such invaluable findings would have great significance to China's cultural history.

Approximately 9 million square meters of the reservoir area had been surveyed and examined by April, with more than 6,000 precious cultural items and 60,000 other cultural heritage items recovered.

China began its cultural relic salvation work in the reservoir area in 1992 when a protection and rescue program was launched, at a cost of one billion yuan (about US$120 million).

(Xinhua News Agency June 13, 2003)

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