- Sun, 08/15/2004 - 12:00
Experts More than a dozen heads of maces dating back to between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago, extremely similar to those used by kings of ancient Egypt, were recently unearthed in northwest China.
"The findings indicate that the contact between east and west civilizations began as early as the prehistoric period," said Li Shuicheng, a professor from the archaeological department of Beijing University.
Previously, historical documents and archaeological discoveries have shown that east and west cultural exchanges started from the Qin and Han dynasties over 2,000 years ago. The new discovery greatly pushes back that date.
The oldest ones among the mace-heads found in Gansu ,Shaanxi and Xinjiang in northwest China date back to 5,500 years ago, judging from the stratum of the relic site and the type of the remains.
"Many experts shared the view that the mace-heads were not a product of the ancient Chinese civilization, but were transmitted from the west," said Li, adding "The exchange ability of the ancients might have surpassed our imagination."
Li showed pictures of the mace-heads, found in Gansu, Shaanxi and Xinjiang in northwest China. They are made of stone, jade or bronze, and are in the shape of balls, peaches, oblates, pentagrams, sheep-heads or bull-heads. Some of them even carry colored drawings.
Their shapes and functions are surprisingly similar to those of ancient Egypt, said noted.
The mace was a special instrument indicating status and authority. Egypt has the earliest and the most mace-head relics in the world. In addition, a large number of mace-heads have been discovered in the Near East, Mesopotamia and the prairie of Eurasia. But they are seldom found in the valley of the Yellow River.
"When the mace-heads were excavated in China, some of them were mistaken for strange weapons or spindles," said Li.
However, a mace-head made of jade stone, unearthed in an ancient tomb in the Ganguya relic site of Jiuquan, Gansu Province, was placed on the left-hand side of the tomb's owner, showing how the tomb's owner held the mace.
Li said that among the 105 tombs excavated in the Ganguya relic site, the mace-head was found only in one tomb, in which the funerary objects are more precious than the other tombs.
"That means the owner of the jade mace-head enjoyed high status, " Li said.
Compared with the mace-heads in Egypt, Mesopotamia and southern Russia the mace-heads in China belong to a later period and have only been found in small numbers in northwest China.
"Therefore, we presume that they were spread to China from the west," he said.
Well-known historian Li Xueqin said that the ancient civilizations in the world have had frequent contact in northwest China over the past several thousand years.
Some weapons and tools such as ax, knife and sword with typical western characteristics have been found in northwest China. Experts believe wheat was also introduced to China from that region.
Zhu Naicheng, a researcher with the Archaeological Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, agreed with Li but pointed out more discoveries and investigations are needed to support the conclusion. The cultural infiltration and blending between the east and west have had a major impact on the formation of a complex cultural structure of northwest China, and have promoted the respective development of the east and west, Li Xueqin said.