China's Lost Civilization: The Mystery of Sanxingdui cover

China's Lost Civilization: The Mystery of Sanxingdui

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In 1929, a farmer unearthed a large stash of jade relics while digging a well. Generations of Chinese archaeologists searched the area without success until 1986, when workers accidentally found sacrificial pits containing thousands of gold, bronze, jade, and pottery artifacts that had been broken (perhaps ritually disfigured), burned, and carefully buried.


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China's Lost Civilization: The Mystery of Sanxingdui

The Mystery of Sanxingdui

Opening on October 19, 2014, the Bowers Museum is proud to present the latest in its series of exhibits highlighting important treasures from around the world.

China's Lost Civilization: The Mystery of Sanxingdui will include objects from the discovery termed "the ninth wonder of the world" by Chinese state-owned television, CCTV and acknowledged by many scholars as one of the greatest archaeological finds ever to be unearthed in China.

Chance discovery

Chance discovery

During the summer of 1986,

construction workers accidentally uncovered an astounding cache of more than 200 ancient jades, tools, burned animal bones, over 60 elephant tusks, monumental bronzes, and a life-sized statue of a nobleman at Sanxingdui, about 40 kilometers outside of the Sichuan Province capitol of Chengdu. Most of the contents had been ritually destroyed.

Excavation site

Excavation site

Excavation of large figure

Excavation of large figure

This chance discovery

of two "sacrificial pits" would be one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century and forced scholars to rewrite early Chinese history.

Cast bronzes of Sanxingdui

Cast bronzes of Sanxingdui

The objects were dated to about 1300 BC,

a time when it was thought that the cradle of Chinese civilization was 1200 kilometers to the northeast on the Yellow River in China's central plain region.

No written record

No written record

However, the cast bronzes of Sanxingdui were far larger and much stranger in appearance than anything seen before.

The three largest masks were human heads with weird supernatural features with animal-like ears and monstrously protruding pupils or an ornate trunk. The Sanxingdui culture left no written record or human remains and appears to have existed for only about 500 years before it vanished.

Bronze Figure with Animal Headdress

Bronze Figure with Animal Headdress

Possible Clue

Possible Clue

In 2001, another archaeological discovery,

this time in the city of Chengdu at Jinsha, revealed possible clues to the mystery of where they may have gone.

Standing Figure

Standing Figure

"China's Lost Civilization" will present over 120 of the most important discoveries from both Sanxingdui and Jinsha

and examine the great mystery of where this 3500 year old culture could have come from and where and why they abruptly vanished. The exhibition will be on view at the Bowers Museum through March 15, 2015 before traveling to the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Large Bronze Bird Head

Large Bronze Bird Head

Kneeling human figure

Kneeling human figure

Human Figure

Human Figure

Bronze Wheel

Bronze Wheel

Sponsors

China's Lost Civilization: The Mystery of Sanxingdui has been organized by the Bowers Museum and the Cultural Relics Bureau of Sichuan Province, China. Suzanne E. Cahill, Ph.D. is Guest Curator for China's Lost Civilization. Major funding has been provided by John and Mary Tu, Jim and Angela Hsu, China Southern Airlines, Van Cleef & Arpels, the James Irvine Foundation and East West Bank. Additional support has been provided by the Bowers Chinese Cultural Arts Council, the Medellas, and Capital Group.

CHINA


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