Archaeologists believe they have discovered a king’s portrait carved into stone at the base of a massive prehistoric pyramid in northwest China.
The discovery was made in the Shimao pyramid in Shenmu, Shaanxi province, which is 4,200 years old. Shimao, at more than 70 meters in height, is roughly half the height of Egypt’s Giza pyramids, which were built around the same time.
But, unlike other ancient pyramid structures, Shimao had a functional purpose: at the top of it stood a palace spanning more than 80,000 square meters – almost the size of ten soccer fields.
Archaeologists have unearthed intricate constructions in the palace including a garden pool where crocodiles were kept. It overlooked a huge walled city that was 50 times larger than the palace and had stone-built courtyards, roadways, and public squares.
DNA study indicates that the majority of citizens of this metropolis were Chinese, but the identity of its ruling class remains unknown because the ancient civilization appears to have perished suddenly 3,800 years ago, with no record of it in any historical texts.
However, Professor Shao Jing, the Shimao excavation team’s deputy chief archaeologist, told state news agency Xinhua that they had just discovered some of the largest statues at the site, one of which could be a king’s picture.
It is a piece of a two-meter-long stone sculpture with three faces, two of which are entirely exposed. According to Shao, they had wide lips with their teeth showing, earrings, sad looks, slightly projecting eyes, and earrings. “The face on the west side is about 80cm long and 50cm high with a crown on its head. It is the largest single image in the Shimao stone carvings,” said.
Shao and the crew, on the other hand, believe that the second painting with “arc patterns on the outside of the eyes” indicates a monarch.
“The eastern face that has been unearthed appears to be in the centre of the whole group … and may be the image of the king of the Shimao ancestors,” according to Shao from the Shaanxi Academy of Archaeology.
At the base of the pyramid, more than 70 stone carvings, including human features, legendary creatures, and animals, have recently been found. According to the study, archaeologists think that these stone carvings, some of which are still affixed to the pyramid walls, are most likely connected to the spiritual beliefs of the Shimao people, who may have sought to defend the palace with representations of kings and nobles.
According to Professor Sun Zhouyong, the team’s chief archaeologist, the Shimao pyramid, which was constructed before the Xia dynasty (2070–1600 BC), which was the first in ancient China, may have connections to other lost civilizations from around the world.
Due to its size, the site has in the past been mistaken for Tang (618–907 AD) or even Ming (1368–1644) dynasty ruins, but modern dating indicates it is far older.
“The ruins include early stone structures that are rarely found in China, city walls still standing … a towering platform for the imperial palace,” Sun, who is also with the Shaanxi academy, was quoted as saying. “These have a lot in common with the Mohenjo-Daro city belonging to the Harappan culture in the Indus Valley [in what is now Pakistan], and the city of Ur in Mesopotamia [in present-day Iraq] around the same time.”
He said that artifacts discovered at the location, including jade and musical instruments found in more than 100 different locations worldwide, indicate there may have been frequent interactions with other cultures or civilisations. He added “There could have been an effective communication network among elites in the ancient world more than 4,000 years ago,”
According to Chinese academics, the vegetation and hydrology around the Shimao site were better back then than they are now, and the groundwater level was at least 20 meters higher.
Sun claimed that the imperial palace’s stone foundation made it “impregnable.” On top of that platform, “the kings and nobles of Shimao lived in a space of almost 80,000 square meters,” Sun remarked, adding that there were countless stone sculptures all around the palace structures and pillars that remained standing.