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4 January 2015
Mystery of ancient chinese civilisation's disappearance

An archaeological site unearthed in China in 1986 revealed a lost Chinese civilisation called Sanxingdui. A new theory suggests the ancient culture may have moved 3,000 years ago after catastrophic landslides coinciding with a major earthquake altered the flow of the city's river.
     Study co-author Niannian Fan, a river sciences researcher at Tsinghua University in Chengdu, thinks the people may have resettled along the river's new course.
     In 1929, a peasant in Sichuan province uncovered jade and stone artefacts about 40 kilometres from Chengdu, but their significance wasn't understood until 1986, when archaeologists unearthed two pits of Bronze Age treasures such as jades, elephant tusks, and stunning 2.4 metre tall bronze sculptures. The treasures, which had been deliberately broken and buried, came from the remains of a walled city on the banks of the Minjiang River.
     About 14 years ago, archaeologists found the remains of another ancient city called Jinsha near Chengdu. The site contained none of the impressive bronzes, but did have a gold crown bearing a motif of fish, arrows, and birds similar to that on a golden staff found at the earlier site.
     Some historical records support the hypothesis. In 1099 BCE, ancient writers recorded an earthquake in the capital of the Zhou dynasty in Shaanxi province, roughly 400 kilometres from the historic site of Sanxingdui. Around the same time, geological sediments suggest massive flooding occurred, and a later Han dynasty document records ancient floods pouring from a mountain in a spot which suggests the river's flow being rerouted. The team found clues high up in the mountains, where the modern-day river cuts through a ravine about 3,800 metres above sea level. The ravine was carved by glaciers, yet telltale signs of glacial erosion are absent for a long stretch. The team hypothesises that an earthquake caused an avalanche that erased some of the glacier's track.

Edited from LiveScience (24 December 2014)

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