These 3,000-year-old relics were torched and buried—but why?
Bug-eyed sculptures. Huge masks of hammered gold. These artifacts in China have long puzzled archaeologists—but may show us how to adapt to a changing world.
Sanxingdui, Sichuan Province, ChinaSanxingdui is China’s latest archaeological marvel.
Located in the lush farmlands outside the megacity of Chengdu, the world-class historical site has disgorged a dazzling trove of Bronze Age relics, most hauled from a series of gigantic burn pits: strange sculptures of bug-eyed deities, colossal masks of hammered gold, gleaming jade ornaments, and life-size trees smelted from bronze that glitter with stylized flowers and mythical birds.
Archaeologists sifting these 3,000-year-old ruins know little about the mysterious people who made such sophisticated art. A few clues only deepen the enigma of Sanxingdui: Many of the 13,000 artifacts unearthed so far were intentionally torched and buried at a single ritual event. Some experts believe the treasures are sacred objects yanked from