XI'AN: Relics found in ancient burial pits last month have been hailed as among the greatest archaeological finds of 2005.
Articles unearthed from the site in Hancheng city in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province date back to the Zhou Dynasty of about 3,000 years ago.
They include more than 600 items of bronzeware, as well as rare gold items and lacquer ware, according to Shaanxi archaeological sources.
Excavation leaders said they will resume the search in February after the Spring Festival and hope to make further discoveries.
"The findings so far may help rewrite historical records," said Jiao Nanfeng, director of Shaanxi Archaeology Research Institute.
He told China Daily the finds were the most important archaeological event in Shaanxi and one of the most significant throughout the whole country in 2005.
"The ancient Zhou's tombs we found were well protected," Jiao said.
"The hosts of the tombs are believed to be high-ranking officials in ancient times. The relics unearthed from the tombs provide precious materials for research on the period of Zhou Dynasty as it is the first time treasures like this have been unearthed."
In October, 2004, Hancheng Municipal Tourism Bureau, with help from local residents, located the large-scale ancient tomb group in Liangdai Village, about 7 kilometres northeast from the city.
With approval by Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Heritage Bureau and the State Heritage Administration, excavation on the sites started in April last year, said Sun Bingjun, head of the excavation team.
After an eight-month effort, archaeologists found that the total area of the tombs group was about 33.3 hectares, which comprised of 103 tombs and 17 pits buried with bronze horses and chariots, Sun said.
"From the four major large tombs themselves and rare treasures unearthed from them, we believe that the tombs belong to the dukes in late Western Zhou (11th century-771 BC) and early Eastern Zhou (770-256 BC). Since 1974, we have not found such old and high-ranking ancient tombs that had not suffered from robbing."
Archaeologists said that the finds are of great significance for research into the political and economic systems and funeral customs of the Zhou Dynasty.
They even conflict with China's first historical records book written by Sima Qian in Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24) because it said that the area where the newly-found ancient tombs are located was the duke land of Liang, said Chen Jiangfeng, an expert with Shaanxi Archaeology Research Institute.
"From the characters on the unearthed bronzewares, we learned that the host of the major tombs is believed to be duke of Rui, and the city now known as Hancheng was the land of Rui, not the land of Liang," Chen said.
However, other archaeologists say the hosts of the tombs cannot be defined at present, and more information is needed for confirmation.
Source: China Daily