A Joint Archaeological Project between China and Kazakhstan Wrote a New Chapter for Cultural Exchanges along the “Belt and Road”

2018-05-17 18:16:38 , Source : The Government Website of Shaanxi Province

“In the middle of May, 2017, a team of five people from the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology went to the Almaty region in Kazakhstan to work with the Issyk State Historical and Cultural Reserve Museum to conduct archaeological research on the Rahat historical heritage site and its surrounding sites in the protected area of the museum. The research lasted for two months. I was honored to be a part of it”, said Ding Yan, a researcher from the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology. He expressed that he owns much to his hard work and study during his post graduate period for giving him this great opportunity.

The Rahat Site is one of Kazakhstan’s most important cultural heritage sites.

In 2003, Ding graduated from the Northwest University with a master’s degree. His graduation thesis was about the nomadic minority ethnic groups in Northwest China but he didn’t expect that his knowledge on this field would help him later in his life.

It is known that the Rahat Site is located on the margin of the northern terrace of the Tianshan Mountains, or the “Dzungarian Alatau” as it is known by the locals. The site belongs to the Issyk town area, located 50 kilometers east of Almaty city and is about 250 kilometers west from China’s Khorgos. It is on the grassland route of the Silk Road and is one of Kazakhstan’s most important cultural heritage sites. Ding explained: “As the former capital of Kazakhstan, Almaty is equal to Xi’an in historical and cultural status.” He said one of the purposes of this archaeological cooperation between China and Kazakhstan is to confirm if the Rahat Site is the remains of an ancient city, and to figure out the period it existed in history.

After on-site inspection, it is found that there were few remains above the ground of the Rahat site. The two biggest problems facing the Chinese team were:

1. The current situation of the earth layer deposit of the site.

2. Where should the exploratory trench be set up?

To find out the answers, the team members used the exploratory shovels they brought to do trial explorations.

Photo of the exploration field of the Rahat Site

In the ditches on the south side of the Rahat Site No. 1 platform, various relics were discovered in the stratum about one meter below the surface, such as bones, pottery shards and stone. Judging from the gray stratum, it can be concluded that this place was once buzzing with human activity. Ding stated that according to the subsequent excavations, the cultural accumulation was more than four meters deep with complex stratums and rich relics such as pieces of pottery, stone, iron, bronze and bone, providing abundant information. This is an important achievement for local museums and archaeological departments and also a major breakthrough for the site.

At present, the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology has established many cooperative relationships in Central Asia. At the end of 2017, the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology conducted an investigation in Kyrgyzstan. In May 2018, they will go to Kyrgyzstan for more archeology research. “There will be more archaeological jobs like this in the future as time goes on”, said Ding. Under the Belt and Road Initiative, the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology will have more in-depth exchanges with neighboring countries or other countries on archaeological research.

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