News FocusArchaeology in China

Archaeologists Raise The Old With the New

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Science  21 Aug 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5943, pp. 936-940
DOI: 10.1126/science.325_936

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Summary

The pace of construction in China threatens to destroy sites ranging from Paleolithic campsites to Han royal tombs, and with them, a treasure trove of data critical for understanding the role of East Asia in early human migrations, animal and plant domestication, and urbanization. Halting or even slowing development in a society eager to emerge from rural poverty is not possible. Instead, archaeologists are exploring creative ways to collaborate with both government and developers, and using museums like the one in Jinsha, a 3000-year-old settlement with a surprisingly rich culture, to build popular support for preserving key sites. Thus China's development boom is powering a new wave of archaeological discovery and appreciation even as it threatens sites. Courts are increasingly willing to enforce harsh penalties on looters (see sidebar). And in a dramatic departure from the past, local governments are now willing to lend support and funds to preserve sites.