Beijing, Aug 18: Archaeologists have excavated a set of stone shields in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur region which they believe were used in sacrifices by nomads nearly 3,000 years ago.
The shields were discovered by the Huahaizi (or sea of flowers) lake in the Altai mountains, bordering Mongolia, Xinhua reported.
The lake shore meadow is home to huge stone relics, including what archaeologists believe to be the largest temple of the sun on the Eurasian steppe.
The shields are pentagonal stones, one with a circle carved in the centre, surrounded by a Herringbone or a V-shaped continuous pattern.
“Initial researches show the shields could date back to the late Bronze Age, roughly 3,000 years ago,” said Lyu Enguo, researcher with Xinjiang’s archaeological institute.
Experts from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and the cultural relic bureaus of Altay prefecture and Qinghe county started excavation in July to find ways of better protecting the relics.
Badly affected by earthquake and climate change, the stone complex has been eroded by the lake water.
Archaeologists compared the patterns carved on the shields with those on deer stones.
Deer stones are ancient megaliths carved with symbols. They can be found all over the world, but are largely concentrated in Siberia and Mongolia. The name comes from their carved depictions of flying deer. There are many theories behind their existence and the people who made them, but expert opinion remains divided.
Pentagons and herringbone have been found on many deer stones on the Eurasian steppe.
The patterns at the current site are similar to those on deer stones from Mongolia’s Khovsgol province.
Experts believe the stone shields were not used for combat, but for sacrifices after they were blessed and dedicated.
“They are most likely to be ritual objects for high-level sacrifices, to drive out evil spirits,” said Guo Wu, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Modern shaman often wear small shields as ritual objects. The discovery of these shields may show that such practices date back to at least 1,000 years ago, said Guo.
Between the late Bronze Age and the early Iron Age, residents on the steppe switched a society based on livestock – mobile pastoralism – to nomadic. Nomadic culture was prosperous at the time in the Altai mountains.
–Indo-Asian news Service