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Scientific dating methods archaeology

Carbon-dating occupies an indispensable place in China's prehistoric archaeology and has a key role to play in the study of artifacts left by ancient peoples.

Without this technique we would know so much less about the remote and mysterious world of the "Three Dynasties" of the Xia (c.2100-1600 BC), Shang (c.1600-1100 BC) and Zhou (c.1100-256 BC).

It revealed the Heicheng city site of the Tangut Dynasty (1038-1227) and the Great Wall of the Kin Dynasty (1115-1234). In fact, careful analysis of remote sensing satellite images can be credited with many important discoveries across China including:  over 12,000 Paleolithic sites in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River  2,000-year-old remains of the Jingjue Kingdom in the hinterland of the Taklamakan Desert  traces of the Grand Canal built by Emperor Yang (560-618) of the Sui Dynasty  the 1,000 kilometer Great Wall constructed by Genghis Khan (1162-1227), who founded the vast Mongol empire of the Middle Ages Underwater archaeology began in China in the late 1980s.

Since then, underwater excavations have been carried out in the sea off Guangdong, Fujian and Liaoning provinces.

The resulting finds have included foundations and graves of the Yin Dynasty (the later period of the Shang Dynasty) in Yinxu located in Anyang city, Henan Province.

The technique has also helped detect evidence of the Neolithic Hongshan culture.

It was in the 1960s that Chinese experts first used aerial photography in the archaeological rescue operations in the Sanmen Gorge reservoir area on the Yellow River.

Thanks to demanding underwater survey work between April and June 2001, archaeologists have made some remarkable discoveries there.

For example they combined geological methods with digital technology to collect and process data on the air and soil.

These data have contributed to research into the changing climate and environment from the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC) through to the Qin (221-206 BC) and Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220).

China's first radiocarbon laboratory was built in 1965 for the Institute of Archaeology operating under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The years that followed would see the number of such facilities mushroom nationwide.

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