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25 January 2017
3,000 year old crocodile bones discovered in China

In 2016 a total of 12 bone lamellae of crocodile were discovered in the ruins of Haojing, part of the capital of the Western Zhou Dynasty (1066-770 BCE) in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, 1400 kilometres west-northwest of Shanghai. Bone lamellae are a thin plate-like structure commonly found in reptiles, often very close to one another, with spaces in between.
     The pieces are a reddish-brown colour with cellular holes on the surface, some roughly square and some rounded.
     Yue Lianjian, a researcher at the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, explains that: "Each bone lamella is as big as a mahjong tile... The discovery provides important materials for the study of the ecological distribution of crocodiles in the Western Zhou Dynasty."
     As cold blooded aquatic animals, crocodiles are one of the earliest and most primitive creatures still in existence. Yue points out that: "Besides a few of them living in the Temperate Zone, most crocodiles live in rivers, lakes or marsh in tropical or sub-tropical areas. Thus we predict that large water areas or lakes might have existed in the southeast of Haojing during the Western Zhou Dynasty."
     Experts have also speculated that people might have raised crocodiles during the Western Zhou Dynasty to make Tuogu, an ancient drum with crocodile skin, some of which have previously been discovered at the site. The excavations date back to the 1930s.
     Together with the crocodile bones, many other utensils were also discovered, such as ancient pottery, stone and bronze implements, as well as ten tombs, two pottery kilns, and four wells.

Edited from CRI English (12 January 2017)

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