A 5,300-year-old Chinese city that provides the earliest example of civilisation in the country has been named as China’s latest Unesco World Heritage Site. The Liangzhu Archaeological Site in Zhejiang province was designated a “cultural site” at the ongoing Unesco meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, bringing the total number of Chinese heritage sites to 55 – passing Italy as the country with the largest number in the world. The ruins, located on the outskirts of the modern city of Hangzhou, sit on the plain of river networks in the basin of the Yangtze River and date back to 3,300BC. The site covers an area of 14.3 sq km and includes relics of 11 dams, cemetery sites, a water conservancy system and walls that give evidence to an early Chinese urban civilisation, with rice cultivation as the economic foundation. The discovery of the site was of “primary importance” as it provides compelling evidence that Chinese civilisation started 5,000 years ago – 1,000 years earlier than previously thought, Colin Renfrew, a retired professor of archaeology at the University of Cambridge, told state news agency Xinhua. “So when we are talking of the origins of state society in China, we can think of the Liangzhu … instead of the Shang civilisation around 1,500BC,” Renfrew said. The site was first discovered in 1936 when a team of archaeologists unearthed some pottery and began searching for further evidence. A breakthrough came in 1986 when a burial site with around 1,200 artefacts made from jade, pottery and ivory was uncovered. The walls of the city were discovered in 2007 and the surrounding water conservancy system was unearthed in 2015. Inside Fujian’s Unesco-listed Hakka roundhouses: their history, architecture and why heritage status is mixed blessing Archaeologists estimate that it would have taken 4,000 people working for a decade to build the system, according to Xinhua. The decision to add the site to the Unesco list is the culmination of more than two decades’ work, with preliminary work starting in 1994. The site is now open to tourists, but a maximum number allowed to visit the site is limited to 3,000 a day and bookings must be made online.