Cultural relics saved from floods
Archaeologists brave rainstorms to minimize damage
Published: Aug 08, 2023 11:06 PM

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

All digital storage and cultural relics have been moved out of danger at Liulihe site, an archaeological site known as the birthplace of Beijing. However, the burial chambers at the site have suffered serious damage from the recent heavy downpours, according to relevant authorities on Tuesday.

The Museum of the Xizhou Yandu Site in Liulihe, in the capital's southwest Fangshan district, was inundated as Beijing recorded extreme rainfall of 744.8 millimeters between July 29 and August 2. This is the heaviest deluge to ever hit the city since records began 140 years ago, according to the Beijing meteorological authority.

A national key cultural relic protection site, the Liulihe site was the capital of the Yan kingdom during the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046-771BC). The rammed-earth city walls, unearthed buildings, cultural relics and a huge amount of archaeological discoveries are a testament to the 3,000-year history of the establishment of the city of Beijing. The archaeological work at the Liulihe site first began in the 1940s. 

During the record rainfall in Beijing, water levels at the Liulihe site reached as high as 1.5 meters and the depth of water in the exhibition hall of the museum reached 20 centimeters. Four burial chambers and chariot pits were affected by the deluge. The museum also experienced a power outage, according to a report published by the site's governing body, the Beijing Archaeology Site Museum (BASU). 

All the water in the burial chambers and chariot pits had been pumped out as of Thursday. The sludge that entered the exhibition hall has also been cleaned up.

Zhang Aimin, an officer with BASU, told the Global Times on Monday that archaeologists will evaluate the damage to the burial chambers and pits and map out a restoration plan. "The water gushed out from underneath the ground and soon flooded the site. The bones and bronze wares in the pits can be repaired, but the pits suffered serious structural damage from the water," said Zhang. "We have not yet set a date for reopening the site to the public as experts need to estimate the damage and come up with a restoration plan," Zhang noted. 

Wang Jing, captain of the archaeological team at the Liulihe site, told the Beijing Daily that they had a race against the flood to salvage the cultural relics.

All digital documents have been rescued. Additionally, all the important cultural relics and rubbings have been protected, and about 500 bags of archives have been moved out of danger, said Wang in her WeChat Moments.

The team had been excavating the site since March, long before the rainfall. While local villagers in Fangshan were urged to evacuate from the flooded areas, Wang and her team members stayed on the spot to rescue the relics and equipment, minimizing water damage.