Remains of a gold mask dating back 3,000 years were found in a huge treasure trove or artifacts discovered at an archaeological site in China's Sichuan province, which sheds more light on an ancient civilization that remains mysterious to historians, Chinese state media Global Times reported, citing the National Cultural Heritage Administration.
The mask consists of around 84% gold, measures 28 cm. high and 23 cm. wide, and weighs around 280 grams, according to the English-language daily reported. But according to Lei Yu, head of the Sanxingdui site excavation team, the whole mask would weigh over half a kilogram. If a whole mask like this was found, it wouldn't just be the largest and heaviest gold object from that period found in China, but the heaviest gold object found from that time period anywhere.
The mask remains was one of over 500 artifacts found in the cache at the site.
Another discovery found were traces of decayed silk. This is significant, as it was the first time silk older than 3,000 years was found in the province, which proves that silk had already been in use at the time.
"Such findings will help us understand why Sichuan became an important source of goods for the Silk Road after the Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 25 CE)," one expert said, according to the Times.
Sanxingdui is widely believed to have been the heart of the ancient state of Shu. Historians know little about this state, though findings indicate it could have existed from the 12th through 11th centuries BCE. However, the findings at the site have given historians much-needed context regarding the development of this country. This is especially notable, as according to CNN, the findings suggest that Shu culture could have been especially unique, implying it may have developed independently of influence from the societies that thrived in the Yellow River Valley.
The Sanxingdui site is the largest ever found in the Sichuan Basin, and is thought to possibly date as far back as the Xia Dynasty period (2070 BCE – 1600 BCE). It was discovered by accident in the 1920s, when a local farmer found several artifacts. Since then, over 50,000 have been found.
The site is part of a tentative list for possible inclusion as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.