For three hundred years, the people of southwest China’s Sichuan province held fast to the legend of an immense treasure submerged in a local river. Last year, it was confirmed true. Archaeologists are now bubbling over with excitement after recovering more than 10,000 silver and gold items.
The hoard was discovered at the crossing of the Minjiang river and the Jinjiang river. Those excavating the site used water pumps to clear the area. So far they have surveyed an area of 10,000 square feet.
Evidence suggests that the treasure belonged to Zhang Xianzhong, the famed leader of the peasant rebellion that sought to overthrow the Ming Dynasty.
How though, did this massive store of valuable items end up in a riverbed? Well, in 1646, Zhang opposed Ming Dynasty forces in a tumultuous naval battle. As the war raged on, it became increasingly obvious that Zhang’s fleet was outclassed. Despite their collective tenacity, they would be overpowered.
Zhang made a desperate attempt to save his treasure. He commanded 1,000 of his ships to transport the treasure to a safer locale in the south. It was Zhang’s hope that his fleet might return at a later date and recover his property. This, of course, did not happen. The fleeing vessels were taken down by Ming forces, and they carried that precious cargo with them to the bottom of the river.
Included among the hoard were coins struck from gold, silver and bronze, jewelry also crafted of precious metal, and weapons such as knives, spears, and swords forged of iron.
“The objects have helped identify the area where the battle was fought and are direct evidence of this historical event," said archaeologist Wang Wei.
Li Boqian, an archaeologist from Peking University, felt the same. In discussing the importance of such a find, he said, “the items are extremely valuable to science, history and art. They are of great significance for research into the political, economic, military and social lives of the Ming Dynasty.”
Excavation of the site is expected to end sometime in April.
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