BEIJING, Jan.12 -- Archaeologists have discovered 117 cultural relics and ancient tombs during the construction of the Beijing section of the south-to-north water diversion project.
Teams have recently braved cold winds at farmland near Nanzheng Village in southwest Beijing's Fangshan District for the excavations.
"It's the first time we have uncovered dozens of cultural relics and tombs of Western and Eastern Han Dynasties (206 BC - AD 220) in this area," said Zhang Zhiqiang, who is in charge of archaeological work along the 80-kilometre-long Beijing section of the cross-regional project.
Large quantities of bronze and ceramic wares, and ancient coins have been excavated from 10 tombs and three pottery kilns at the site.
"These findings will help us study the life and production of ancient villages and townships more than 2,000 years ago in Beijing," said Kong Fanzhi, vice-director of Beijing Municipal Bureau of Cultural Heritage.
He added it would help to fill in gaps within Beijing's history, which can be traced back to more than 3,000 years ago.
The south-to-north water diversion project, which runs across eight provinces and regions, provides an "unprecedented opportunity" across vast areas for Chinese archaeologists, he noted.
The water diversion project consists of three canals, each running more than 1,200 kilometres across the eastern, central and western parts of the country.
The eastern and central routes of the scheme will involve the protection of more than 700 major cultural heritage sites, with a planned excavation area surpassing 1.6 million square metres.
Last November, the Chinese Government decided to allocate 50 million yuan (US$6.2 million) for the protection of 45 major cultural heritage sites along the two routes.
Archaeologists in the capital completed an exploration area of 2.72 million square metres, far more than the planned 608,000 square metres from July to December last year, noted Zhang.
All the archaeological excavation work will be finished before June 30, when an underground canal will be dug on the sites in Fangshan and Fengtai districts for the use of water diversion.
Meanwhile, large-scale archaeological work has currently been halted due to cold weather and frozen land, said Zhang, adding that all the cultural relics unearthed would be sent to Beijing's cultural relic institute for repair and further studies.