tirsdag 25. mai 2021

It’s a golden age for Chinese archaeology — and the West is ignoring it

Early in April, news broke that a 3,000-year-old “lost golden city” had been uncovered in Luxor, Egypt. Described in some articles as the most important find since the 1922 discovery of the tomb of the boy king Tutankhamen, the city of Aten, founded sometime between 1391 and 1353 B.C. — during Egypt’s 18th dynasty — appears to have been the largest settlement of that era.

The discovery was prominently covered by such outlets as ABC, NPR, The Washington Post and the New York Times, which noted that it comes as “Egyptology is having a big moment,” including not just the Aten find but also a Netflix documentaryon sarcophagi in Saqqara and the buildup toward the long-awaited opening of a new Grand Egyptian Museum sometime this year.

But the lavish coverage of the Aten dig contrasted with the quiet reception in the United States, two weeks before, for a stunning set of discoveries, dating to about 1,200 B.C., at the site of Sanxingdui in China’s Sichuan province, near Chengdu. There archaeologists unearthed more than 500 objects, including a large gold mask, ivory, bronzes and remnants of silk, with more coming. The finds include whole tusks of Asian elephants — evidence of tribute brought to the Sanxingdui leaders from across the Sichuan region — and anthropomorphic bronze sculptures distinct from other contemporary East Asian bronzes (which were primarily ritual vessels and weapons).