Chinese archaeology students discover topic of next class has been beneath their feet for thousands of years

  • Guangzhou’s Sun Yat-sen University has been site of discoveries for years, and this week students took classes on the site of their latest campus dig
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 January, 2019, 2:37pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 January, 2019, 11:16pm

Archaeology students at Guangzhou’s Sun Yat-sen University discovered they had study opportunities under their feet when tombs dating back 2,000 years were unearthed on campus by construction work.

This week, the university announced that the tombs found in the southern part of the campus where a canteen is to be built were constructed during the Eastern Han dynasty (25-220) and the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1636-1912) dynasties. A well of Tang dynasty (618-907) origin was also found.

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As students joked on social media that they had walked around above the tombs, the university’s School of Sociology and Anthropology held two sessions of lectures on site on Monday, drawing a throng of students from not only its own department, but also students studying other majors, the Guangzhou-based Information Times reported.

Such was the demand, an extra session was held but the university said for now the site would be open for archaeology lectures for one day only.

Jin Zhiwei, an archaeology lecturer, said the onsite classes gave students – especially those at junior grades – more field studies experience.

“Our department’s normal practice is that students of Grade 3 start to go to archaeology sites to study, while freshmen or sophomores do not get this kind of experience,” he was quoted as saying.

“It happened that our university has an archaeological discovery right at the front door of our home. Why not take advantage of it?” Jin said.

The scholar also said lecturing at the site to students can improve their understanding of relic protection.

“It’s so that more people come to understand what archaeology is, how archaeologists dig a site and what’s the difference between archaeology and grave robbing,” Jin said.

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Experts said dozens of objects such as containers in the shape of cows and chickens but whose functions were unknown were scattered about the tombs.

The university said it has reported the discovery to local relic authorities and the dig was under their supervision, the report said.

It is not the first time that an archaeological find was made at the university. Stoneware dating to prehistoric times was found on campus in the 1950s, while tombs of Western Han (BC 202-AD8) and Eastern Han dynasties were discovered in the 1960s.

These tombs had all been plundered, but their layouts, remaining grave goods and condition were similar to recent discoveries, experts said.

Experts from Guangzhou Municipal Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology said the southern part of the campus was high ground suitable for burials.