China's Lost Civilization
China's Lost Civilization The Mystery of Sanxingdui

HOUSTON- China's Lost Civilization: The Mystery of Sanxingdui , a special exhibition opening April 10 at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, highlights important treasures from China. It is acknowledged by many scholars as one of the greatest archaeological finds ever to be unearthed.

"This is the latest in a series of exhibitions from the discovery termed the ‘ninth wonder of the world'," said Dirk Van Tuerenhout, curator of anthropology at HMNS. "One of the objects on display is the largest known bronze human figure ever made. At 8 ft. 5" it is even bigger than Yao Ming, imagine that!"

The first objects were discovered by accident in the spring of 1929, when a farmer encountered jade artifacts while repairing a ditch. Archaeological excavations started in earnest in 1986, when two sacrificial pits were investigated. They contained more than 200 ancient jades, weapons, burned animal bones, more than 60 elephant tusks, monumental bronzes, and a life-sized statue of a nobleman at Sanxingdui, about 24 miles outside of the Sichuan Province capital of Chengdu.

Most of the contents had been intentionally destroyed and deposited in two large pits. This chance discovery has become one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century and has forced scholars to rewrite early Chinese history. The objects date to about 1200 BC, a time when it was thought that the cradle of Chinese civilization existed 745 miles to the northeast on the Yellow River in China's Central Plain region.

Excavations at Sanxingdui reveal the remains of a sophisticated culture that excelled in their bronze-making abilities. These cast bronzes were far larger and much stranger in appearance than anything seen in the ancient world before. The three largest masks are in the form of human heads with supernatural features including large wing-like ears, monstrously protruding eyes and ornate appendages. Other bronzes reveal traces of paint or are covered with gold. The Sanxingdui culture left no written record or human remains and appears to have existed for only about 350 years before it vanished.

In 2001, another archaeological discovery, this time in the city of Chengdu at a site named Jinsha, revealed possible clues to the mystery of where the Sanxingdui culture may have gone. China's Lost Civilization presents over 120 of the most important discoveries from both Sanxingdui and Jinsha and examines the great mystery of the identity of this 3,200-year-old culture.

China's Lost Civilization: The Mystery of Sanxingdui, open from April 10th through September 7th, has been organized by the Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Cultural Relics Bureau of Sichuan Province, Peoples Republic of China. Major funding provided China Southern Airlines. Local support provided by Kathrine G. McGovern/McGovern Foundation.

For tickets or more information on this special exhibition, visit or call (713) 639-4629.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science-one of the nation's most heavily attended museums-is a centerpiece of the Houston Museum District. With four floors of permanent exhibit halls and the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre, Cockrell Butterfly Center, Burke Baker Planetarium and George Observatory, and as host to world-class and ever-changing touring exhibitions, the HMNS has something to delight every age group. With such diverse and extraordinary offerings, a trip to the HMNS, located at 5555 Hermann Park Drive in the heart of the Museum District, is always an adventure.


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