imageArchaeologists around the world were excited by the unearthling of large palatial remains in the 1980s, the remnants of the eastern, western and southern walls in 1984 and the discovery of two large sacrificial pits in 1986.

These discoveries proved that Sanxingdui contains the ruins of an ancient city that was political, economic and cultural centre of the ancient Shu kingdom.

A metropolis of its time, Sanxingdui boasted highly developed agrcultural and mining systems, and produced ceramics and sacrificial tools.

Before the excavation of Sanxingdui, it was believed that Sichuan has a history dating back 3000 years. Thanks to the excavation, it is now believed that civilized culture first appeared in Sichuan 5000 years ago.

Archaologists say that the Sanxingdui Ruins also dispel theories that the Yellow River was the sole starting point of Chinese civilization.

Of more than 10,000 relics unearthed in Sanxingdui, the nearly 1000 found in 1986 in the two sacrificial pits are considered the most valuable. In these two pits, bronze, gold, jade and marble artifacts, pottery, bone implements, elephant tusks and objects made of ivory were found. Archaeologists also discovered cowries and roughly 800 large bronze relics.

In addition to the many bronze and gold masks, the most valuable finds from the two pits included the bronze statue of the Shu king, a gold scepter and a bronze "spirit tree". With a length of 1.42 metres, a diametre of 2.3 cm and weight of 0.5kg, te design on the gold scepter features fish, birds, and human figures. The scepter is believed to be a symbol for a monarchic or theocratic order, or a combination of two. Consisting of a pedestral, a trunk and part of a dragon, the 3.95 metre-tall bronze tree is the oldest, tallest and largest of its kind in the world. Some thinks that it represents a legendary spirit tree, while many researchers believe that the tree was an all-embracing symbol.

The Sanxingdui covers 12 square kilometres, of which only four have been excavated. Chen Xiandan, deputy curater of the Sichuan Provicial Museum says: "It is likely that more exciting archaeological discoveries will be made"