Archeologists will launch a large-scale excavation at the Sanxingdui Ruins in southwest China's Sichuan Province this year to probe the mysteries of a lost civilization dating back more than 3,000 years.
Officials said work at the Sanxingdui ruins would run until 2010 as the State Administration of Cultural Heritage had approved excavation of a total area of 7,000 square meters.
A dig of 700 square meters this year would probably discover the mysterious palaces, an altar, aristocratic tombs, bronze vessels and jadeware workshops, say archeologists.
"We have great hopes for the dig," said Chen De'an, chief archeologist of a Sichuan provincial archeological team at Sanxingdui Ruins.
Sanxingdui, which is listed among China's top 10 archaeological findings of the 20th century, has long been suspected to be the remains of the ancient Shu Kingdom that suddenly disappeared in southwest China between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago.
Some of the most striking pieces were found accidentally in 1986 in Sanxingdui, a small village in Guanghan City, Sichuan.
Workers digging clay for bricks unearthed two pits, hidden for more than 3,000 years and filled with layers of bronze, stone and jade items including humanlike heads, masks, smaller figures and elephant tusks.
Though archeologists have since struggled to further study and unearth relics from Sanxingdui, they have long been puzzled by the failure to find the altar and other items of the lost civilization.
Three different ancient civilizations that developed separately are still enigmas for archeologists, while the exact meanings of the bronzes and masks remains unknown to archeologists at home and abroad.
Some have held that an alien species might be the answer. A previous report quoted the locals as saying that the ruins were visited by an unidentified flying object (UFO) in December 2000.
"We hope to solve the millenniums-old mysteries one by one if we are lucky enough to find items like palaces, an altar and tombs," said Chen.
He said a rough picture of the mysterious ancient kingdom could be drawn if more details surfaced in the new excavation.
Sanxingdui is regarded as the site of the earliest and largest ruins of the ancient Shu people discovered in China with its earliest occupation dating back to the late Neolithic period from 5,000 to 3,700 years ago.
(People's Daily July 30, 2003)