Ancient Chinese cultures are thought to have existed in the Middle East and Asia, but no one knows what they are or how they managed to build such vast societies, including temples, palaces and cities.
Now researchers from the University of Oxford say that a Chinese temple could have housed a huge complex.
Ancient China is the world’s oldest civilisation and it is believed that the ancient Chinese civilisation flourished between 400 and 668BCE.
The discovery could help shed light on the origins of the ancient peoples, says Dr Andrew Ritchie from the Department of Archaeology at the University’s School of Oriental and African Studies.
The Temple of Cao Shu-tao, located in northern Shaanxi province, was excavated by a team of Chinese archaeologists in 2004.
The archaeologists found a stone wall around an arched doorway, which the team believes was made of bricks from an ancient Chinese wall.
The bricks were made of a clay, the same kind of clay used to build temples and palaces, which were built by slaves.
The site also contains an impressive collection of pottery and other artifacts from a complex that dated to between 300BC and 2,000BCE, according to the team.
“We believe the temples are the first example of a cultural complex in ancient China,” says Dr Ritchie.
“It is important to understand how ancient Chinese cultures could have produced such a complex architecture and the way that they used the stones to construct it.”
The temple is the first evidence of a significant cultural event in China that dates back more than 5,000 years.
“It could be the earliest example of what we now know as a cultural civilisation.”
Dr Riggins says that ancient Chinese architecture was probably based on a similar design as that used in ancient Rome.
“The architecture of the temple, and the temples, was probably a direct result of Roman occupation, but probably also influenced by a wider Chinese architectural tradition,” he says.
“These early Roman structures are probably based around a very specific architectural design and were probably built to accommodate the needs of a large population.”
In other words, it was a temple of Roman culture and not a temple to the emperor.
“Its dimensions, and even its proportions, were quite astonishing. “
A lot of people don’t realise how large and complex the Temple was,” he said.
The archaeologists said they also found a massive tomb, which may be an example of the tomb of a slave woman. “
There are a number of important features of the structure that make it an important architectural monument in ancient Chinese history.”
The archaeologists said they also found a massive tomb, which may be an example of the tomb of a slave woman.
It is believed the female was buried with the help of a rope and the team believe the structure is of Roman origin.
Dr Rigs says that the researchers were able to excavate in the region where the Temple is now because of its proximity to the ancient city of Taishan.
“This is the only place in the world where we can really do archaeological research in ancient Taishans, which is an important archaeological site,” he explains.
“They also contain a lot of other evidence, including the site of the original settlement of the site where the temple was originally built, and other sites that could be a part of that ancient settlement.”
The researchers are now planning further excavations to discover more about the site.
“If we are right, it will be a major step in the study of the emergence of a new civilisation in the ancient world,” Dr Riggles said.