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Feature: Lost kingdom of Sun found
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09:51, July 21, 2007

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The construction site in the western suburbs of Chengdu, in Sichuan Province, looked much like any other. It all started when a bulldozer driver heard a scraping sound as his machine bit deep into the ground: he struck a collection of golden, jade and bronze objects. Workers and passersby snapped up the treasures and scurrying off. Those too late to get anything, disgruntled, report the find to the police. And that''s how, in February 2001, the world learned about the relics of a mysterious 3,000-year-old Jinsha kingdom in the mountains of southwest China.

"Jinsha culture is unique, quite different from cultures in other parts of China, but is scarcely mentioned by Chinese historians," said Zhu Zhangyi, a veteran archaeologist in Sichuan and deputy-curator of the Jinsha Museum. "The harsh geography made it difficult for outsiders to enter the kingdom and so it was able to preserve its endemic culture."

Police have been able to recover most of the relics purloined from the construction site -- about 100 items in all, but no one can confidently claim that they have recovered everything.

In the past six years, the site has yielded up about 6,000 gold, jade, bronze and stone artifacts, tens of thousands of pottery items and also hundreds of elephant tusks. Gold fever

Jinsha means ''gold sand''. True to its name, the site has proved extraordinarily rich in gold relics.

"Chinese people typically use gold as jewellery -- earrings, bracelets or necklaces -- but Jinsha people used gold for sacrificial purposes. They made gold masks, gold headware and strange, horn-shaped objects in finely worked gold," said Sun Hua, an archaeologist from Beijing University.

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