Chinese archaeology proves early East-West links

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The vast but little known north-western Chinese region of Xinjiang has presented a University of Sydney archaeologist with exciting new evidence of early contact between China and the West. 

While on an expedition in Xinjiang, Dr Peter Jia found evidence of wheat starch dating back 4000 years, lending weight to arguments of early East-West links [Credit: University of Sydney]

The findings of the Chinese-Australian collaborative team will be presented at East and West: Past and Future, an upcoming archaeological workshop examining early ties between the West, Xinjiang and Central Asia. 

While on an expedition in Xinjiang’s dry grasslands last year, Dr Peter Jia found wheat starch dating back 4000 years, almost as old as the earliest wheat known in China. “This greatly strengthens the evidence that wheat came to China from the West,” he says. “Our research is making significant advances in showing how ideas travelled across many miles of mountains and deserts to enrich early Chinese civilisation.” 

Dr Jia is co-organising East and West: Past and Future with the University’s China Studies Centre so key specialists working in Xinjiang and neighbouring areas of Central Asia can share their ideas and knowledge across national boundaries. Participants will explore early interaction between China and her western margins, especially Central Asia and the Eurasian steppes. They will also discuss plans for heritage protection in these historically significant regions. 

Professor Yidilisi Abuduresule, Former Director of the Xinjiang Institute of Relics and Archaeology will talk on the famous desert burials at Xiaohe, with their remarkably preserved bodies and unique material culture. Professor Cong Dexin from the Chinese Academy of Social Science will present (in Mandarin) the most recent discoveries of the Chinese-Australian team in the far western mountains of Xinjiang. 

The keynote address for the workshop East and West: Past and Future will be delivered by the former Director General of the National Institute of Archaeology of Afghanistan, Dr Abdul Wasey Feroozi. Dr Feroozi will discuss the challenges facing Afghan heritage management resulting from recent and on-going current wars. 

East and West: Past and Future runs from 16 to 18 May. It is open to the public and free of charge. 

Source: University of Sydney [May 15, 2012]

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