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27 November 2010
3,000-year-old fruit cellar found in China

A 3,000-year-old fruit cellar containing well-preserved apricot and melon seeds has been discovered in Shaanxi province, in southeast China. Found by archaeologists including researcher Sun Zhouyong of the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archeology, the cellar is a rectangular pit about 100cm long, 80cm wide and 200cm deep (39"x31"x79").
     Sun and his colleagues took 8 years to conclude that the pit, originally found in 2002 under ruins from the Western Zhou dynasty (1046-771 BCE), was a cellar to preserve fruits for aristocrats. The dig site was believed to be a dwelling place for Duke Danfu, a leader of the Zhou clan. It was known as the cradle of the Western Zhou Dynasty, one of the earliest periods of China's written history.
     The cellar contained piles of nuts and seeds. "We sorted them out with care, and found about 150 melon seeds, 10 plum seeds and 500 apricot nuts, of which 108 were complete with carbonized pulp," said Sun. There were also millet and grass seeds. "Most of the seeds were intact," said Sun. "It was so amazing that scientists who conducted lab work suspected they were actually put away by rodents in more recent times."
     The researchers sent three apricot nuts to Beta Analytic in Florida for carbon 14 dating. "Results indicated they were about 3,000 years old, dating back to a period between 1380 BCE and 1120 BCE," said Sun. "Seemingly the fruits had been stored in an acidic and dry environment, so dehydration was extremely slow and the nuts were not carbonized even after so many centuries."
     Archeologists had earlier found a 2,000-year-old "'icebox' in the ruins of a temporary imperial residence of the Qin Dynasty (221 BCE - 207 BCE) in Shaanxi province. The icebox, in the shape of a shaft 1.1 meters in diameter and 1.6 meters tall, was unearthed about three meters underground.

Edited from People's Daily Online, ZeeNews (21 November 2010)

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