The unknown civilization that built the ancient pyramid vanished without traces. The recent discovery at the footstep of the pyramid could help archeologists identify it. The ancient city is home to immense fortifications and sophisticated infrastructure, thousands of luxurious artifacts and a 230-foot-high stepped pyramid.
During excavations at the 4,300-year-old Shimao pyramid in Shenmu, northwest China’s Shaanxi province, archaeologists have uncovered what appears to be a portrait of a king carved in stone.
The Shimao Archaeological Site is located in the northern part of the Loess Plateau, at the southern end of the Ordos Desert.
The site dates back to around 2000 BC and covers an area of approximately 400 hectares. Originally believed to be part of the Great Wall of China, Shimao’s walls were uncovered to be Neolithic in age after jade pieces were discovered at the site.
More than 70 meters tall, the pyramid there is almost half as high as the pyramids of Giza. In contrast to other ancient pyramids, Shimao was built with a practical purpose: at the peak stood a palace covering nearly ten football fields’ worth of space, or 80,000 square meters.
Several buildings have been discovered in the palace, as well as a pond for crocodiles in the garden. Overlooking the palace was a walled city 50 times bigger than the palace, with stone courtyards, causeways, and public squares.
According to DNA studies, most of the residents of this city were Chinese. Despite this, the identity of its ruling elite remains unknown because the ancient civilization disappeared 3,800 years ago, without any historical record of it.
(Watch a video of the discovery by clicking here)
According to Xinhua news agency, the Shimao excavation team deputy chief archaeologist Professor Shao Jing said they had just discovered some of the largest statues at the site, one of which may be a king’s portrait.
In all, there are three faces on the two-meter-high stone sculpture, of which two have been completely excavated. In Shao’s words, they are adorned with earrings, their faces are solemn, and their eyes are bulging, and their mouths are wide with visible teeth.
The west side face measures approximately 80 cm (31 inches) long and 50 cm (20 inches) high, with a crown on top. The report describes it as the largest image ever carved into Shimao stone.
In Shao’s opinion, it is the other portrait, with arc patterns on the outside of the eyes, that represents a king. There seems to be an eastern face in the center of the whole group, “maybe it represents Shimao’s ancestor’s monarch,” says Shao of the Shaanxi Academy of Archaeology.
“The eastern face that has been unearthed appears to be in the center of the whole group—and maybe the image of the king of the Shimao ancestors,” Shao told the Xinhua news agency.
There are over 70 stone carvings at the base of the pyramid, including human faces, animals, and legendary creatures.
Many early Chinese emperors and empresses and their relatives were buried in Chinese pyramids, which differed in design from their Egyptian counterparts. The province of Shaanxi contains many pyramids near Xi’an.
The ancient city home to the stepped pyramid is believed to have been built about 4,300 years ago. For unknown reasons, it was abandoned roughly 300 years later during the Xia Dynasty (2070-1600 B.C.), which happens to be the first dynasty in China described in historical chronicles.
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