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Boom of bronze age

By Wang Kaihao and Wang Jianfen | China Daily | Updated: 2022-09-15 08:05
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Dragon-shaped turquoise artifacts and bronze bells unearthed from Erlitou combine to present an aura of dynasty in archaeologists' eyes.[Photo provided to China Daily]

The heavy mist of history surrounding Erlitou has slowly and steadily cleared. Location and characteristics revealed by its artifacts have approached a solution to a long-bothering conundrum: It is probably the last capital of the Xia Dynasty (c. 21st century-16th century BC), the first central dynasty recorded in Chinese history.

According to Shiji (Records of the Grand Historian)-the foundation text of Chinese history dating back to the first century BC-and Zhushu Jinian (Bamboo Annals), a collection of chronicles completed in the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), the Xia Dynasty existed for 471 years, and was ruled by 17 kings over 14 generations.

No written characters have been unearthed at Erlitou to directly establish the identity of its rulers, but this missing piece of a puzzle is no major impediment to claim so. In Zhao's eyes, whatever has been found beneath the earth so far has already demonstrated "an aura of a dynasty".

"For example, the arterial roads embraced by walls reflect rigid urban planning. They also indicate ordered social stratification and a ruling system centering the palatial city, echoed with the discovery of high-level graves," he explains.

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