Well-preserved seeds found in 3,000-year-old storage units

11:12, November 23, 2010      

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Archaeologists found many well-preserved fruit and vegetable seeds, including almonds and melon seeds, from more than 3,000 years ago — some even look like new seeds — according to the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology on Nov. 20.

The archaeologist said that people of the Zhou Dynasty had built unique storage units 3,000 years ago that were capable of keeping things fresh.

According to sources, Sun Zhouyong, associate researcher of the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, has been studying the archaeology of the Shang and Zhou dynasties for many years and has been conducting research and excavations at the Sites of Zhouyuan, which is less than 100 kilometers away from Xi'an. Finding this storage pit was just a small part of his achievements.

According to archaeological data, the storage pit where the seeds were stored is square shaped with the four angles being slightly arc shaped. The inner walls are smooth and the bottom is flat. The pit head, which is 105 centimeters long, 80 centimeters wide and 205 centimeters deep, is 70 centimeters away from the ground. There are four round holes that are 70 centimeters away from the pit head, used for laying stands to support straw sheds and other covers. The whole structure was delicately constructed.

"The inner walls under the covers were evenly smeared with cob of two to three centimeters, and then were dried. With the four angles as the boundary line, there are two layers of soil in the pit, with the upper layer being light brown soil and the lower layer being yellow-gray soil. The upper layer soil is loose and contains a few processed stone drills, animal bones and potteries. The lower layer soil is compact but has obviously less amount of soil and a large number of plant seeds can be seen with naked eyes."

Sun said that they have found 500 almonds, 839 half-broken and 108 unbroken seeds and seeds with kernels and peels, about 150 Cucurbitaceae seeds such as melon seeds, less than 10 Prunus seeds and two kinds of Setaria plant seeds, which are millet seeds and grass seeds.

After identification, statistics and measurement, researchers from various fields found that these remains of plants were preserved very well and most of seeds and kernels had not been carbonized. The appearance of these seeds and kernels can be said to be bright and fresh as ever.

Sanqin Daily contributed to this report.

By People's Daily Online


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