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What lies beneath

By Wang Kaihao | China Daily | Updated: 2022-07-21 07:42
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Frontal and rear view of a stone statue that was unearthed.[Photo provided to China Daily]

A worldwide significance

Shimao is not an unfamiliar name beyond China. As early as in the 1920s, many ceremonial jade pieces were discovered in the area, which were later believed to have come from the Shimao site. They fell into the hands of antique dealers and foreign "explorers", and are now scattered around the world.

Nevertheless, following work done by Sun's team, overseas scholars may be ushered to attach close attention to the location of those exquisite artifacts.

A highlighted moment came in 2020 when the "Neolithic City of Shimao" was listed among the world's top 10 archaeological findings of the past decade by the Archaeology journal, which was published by Archaeological Institute of America.

In February, a paper titled Shimao and the Rise of States in China: Archaeology, Historiography and Myth was published with US-based journal Current Anthropology and has been widely noticed in academia home and abroad.

Overseas authors of the paper critique the ongoing study methods on Shimao while highlighting the crucial role that the site played in the early stage of Chinese civilization. More importantly, eight renowned scholars around the globe, including Sun, commented on and replied to questions raised by the authors in the publishing.

"The authors may haven't fully understood the recent development of Chinese archaeology and thus nurtured some biased viewpoints," Zhang Meng, an associate researcher with Shanghai-based Fudan University, says. "But the paper as well as the comments showed how international and domestic scholars explained the history behind Shimao through multiple dimensions, and such exchanges can enrich our own researching methods."

Considering Shimao as a milestone marking the trajectory of urbanism, Sun also knows the significance of placing the site in a bigger picture, involving civilizations in Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley.

"We can see some similarities among the stone structures of these regions though there is no evidence to show contact," Sun says. "But it is undeniable that Shimao benefited from a wide network of intercultural communications.

"Shimao, owing to its unique geographic location, has an advantage to be compared with its contemporaneous counterparts across Eurasia," he says. "Seeing how they were formed and how they evolved, we can better reveal the contribution made by Chinese civilizations to the world."

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