Last year was a fruitful one for Chinese archaeologists. Finds provide a clear profile of the country's development.
New discoveries included the earliest wheat－from about 5,000 years ago－in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region; the country's biggest unearthed reservoir of horses and chariots used as funeral objects, in Henan province; and the remains of a Qin State kings' bathroom and other living facilities during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC).
They were among the Top 10 Archaeological New Discoveries of China in 2017, which were announced in Beijing on Tuesday.
Tongtiandong Paleothic site in Jeminay, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. [Photo provided to China Daily]
A hoard of silver left during a war by Zhang Xianzhong－a household name and a controversial leader of an uprising in the late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)－was also a widely discussed discovery of 2017.
"This year's listed projects have wide geographic distribution, time spectrums and varieties," said panel member Wang Wei, head of the Society of Chinese Archaeology.
"Each item has its unique characteristics, and some kind of discoveries have few counterparts in previous years, like religious ritual sites," he said, speaking of Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) shrine remains that were unearthed in Jilin province.
A jade phoenix found at the Yaoheyuan site, Ningxia Hui autonomous region. [Photo provided to China Daily]
"It indicated Chinese people had begun to pay homage to deities on Changbai Mountain at that time," he said.
The other religious site on the list is Grand Shangqing Palace, a top-level imperial Taoist temple from the Ming Dynasty in Yingtan, Jiangxi province.
The judging panel was composed of 21 experts from the country's top-tier institutions, including the Palace Museum, the National Museum of China and Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Twenty-six projects entered the final round of appraisal from the preliminary selection, which was based on a public poll and scholars' opinions.
A hoard used in silver transportation found at an ancient battlefield in Meishan, Sichuan province. [Photo provided to China Daily]
According to judge Li Boqian, an archaeology professor from Peking University, the top 10 entries portray silhouettes of the development of Chinese society at different times.
"They compose a concise version of Chinese history," he said.
Scientific, historical and artistic values are all considered when judging the projects. Those providing new understanding of old theories are particularly preferred.
Horse skeletons and chariots found in Xinzheng, Henan province. [Photo provided to China Daily]
For instance, the discovery of Western Zhou Dynasty (c. 11th century-771 BC) remains, where some oracle bones were unearthed in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, showed that the dynasty's rule extended to today's Northwest China, though orthodox views consider it was mainly based in Central China.
Chinese archaeology had often been seen as "rescuing cultural relics from infrastructure construction," Wang said. "But the infrastructure projects are now less hasty, and local governments are more supportive of archaeology than before. Public participation in archaeology is also more common."
A bottle found at the Yangguanzhai site in Xi'an, Shaanxi province. [Photo provided to China Daily]
For example, for the Ming Dynasty battlefield relics of Zhang Xianzhong, eight volunteers were selected to participate in the excavation. Public education was also emphasized.
"It's also crucial for archaeologists to inform the public of their discoveries in a timely manner," Wang said.
Top 10 archaeological discoveries in China, 2017 (in chronological order)
1. Tongtiandong relics in Jeminay, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region－Paleolithic, up to 45,000 years ago
2. Jiaojia relics in Jinan, Shandong province－Dawenkou culture, about 5,000 years ago
3. Yangguanzhai relics in Xi'an, Shaanxi province－Yangshao culture, about 5,000 years ago
4. Yaoheyuan relics in Pengyang, Ningxia Hui autonomous region－Western Zhou Dynasty (c. 11th century-771 BC)
5. Xinzheng ancient city relics of Han and Zheng states in Xinzheng, Henan province－Late Western Zhou Dynasty to Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC)
6. Yueyang city relics in Xi'an, Shaanxi province－Warring States Period (475-221 BC) to Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD)
7. Eastern Han Dynasty emperors' tombs in Luoyang, Henan province－Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220)
8. Grand Shangqing Taoist Palace relics in Yingtan, Jiangxi province－Song (960-1279) to Ming (1368-1644) dynasties
9. Shrine relics on Changbai Mountain in Antu, Jilin province－Jin Dynasty (1115-1234)
10. Battlefield relics in Meishan, Sichuan province－Late Ming Dynasty