Chuxiong in central Yunnan is already known for buried remains of all kinds. Those finds have typically been millions or tens of millions of years old. However, a recent discovery may give the prefecture a new reputation as a hotbed for less archaic studies, as a team of scientists has uncovered more than 200 graves and tombs thought to predate the Bronze Age, Xinhua reports.
Digging began in earnest in May and June of this year at a site just outside of a small town called Jiangbian (江边乡) in Yuanmou County (元谋县). The village sits on the banks of the Jinsha River (金沙江) roughly 140 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital, Kunming. Following the discovery of several ancient graves, the worksite expanded over the intervening months and now encompasses more than a dozen excavation pits covering 100,000 square meters.
Experts from the Yunnan Archeological Institute uncovered several intact skeletons, which they have described as "well-preserved and lying flat on their backs". A diverse group of hundreds of artifacts ranging from earthenware urns and pots, stone tools, weapons and bronze implements were found alongside the human remains.
Until further laboratory examinations such as carbon dating and material analysis are complete, the scientists working in Jiangbian are unsure exactly what they have found. The inclusion of what appear to be Neolithic — commonly called Stone Age — artifacts in such close proximity to Bronze Age tools begs the questions of date and relation.
The Neolithic Period of human history is typically characterized by the advent of animal husbandry and agriculture, as well as the development of the foundational knowledge needed for metallurgy. What remains unclear at the sprawling Jiangbian dig site is whether it was used at two different or overlapping times by two distinct groups of people, or if it was created by humans who utilized both stone and bronze technology simultaneously.
While these questions are investigated, the Jiangbian discoveries add another feather to the cap of Chuxiong's long history of paleontological and archeological discovery. Yuanmou County is already the celebrated home of the eponymously named Yuanmo Man — a distant ancestor of modern humans discovered in 1965. The prefecture also claims Yunnan's one and only Dinosaur Valley (恐龙谷), a museum and amusement park built atop the site where the dinosaur Lufengosaurus was first discovered in the 1930s.
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