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Archaeologists have successfully excavated the remains of a 3,000-year-old altar dedicated to the worship of the sun in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The ruins sit along the path what later became the famous Silk Road.
The 300-foot structure is believed to have been built by ancient cultures that inhabited the region over 3,000 years ago and managed to transport massive stones using men and horses say, archaeologists.
Even though the ruins of this ancient monument were discovered in 1993, they were not excavated until last years, allowing experts to confirm their initial suspicions that the ancient site was in fact used as a sun altar by ancient cultures which inhabited the region during the Bronze Age.
Reports suggest that the ancient sun altar is composed of three layered circles of stone with the outer diameter of the circle just over 320 feet long. As reported by Euronews, closely resembles the heaven-worshipping altars of the dynasties that once ruled China’s central plains. Liu Chuanming, one of the archaeologists studying the ruins, said:
Archaeologists say that this discovery is of extreme importance because it suggests that a strong cultural link existed between ancient Chinese ruling dynasties and nomadic regions.
“This proves that central plain culture had already long reached the foot of Mount Tianshan, in the Bayanbulak Grassland, the choke point of the Silk Road,” said Liu Chuanming, one of the archaeologists studying the ruins, in CCTV video.
The Silk Road was a network of trade routes organized from the Chinese silk business from the first century BC which spread all over the Asian continent, connecting China with Mongolia, the Indian subcontinent, Persia, Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Europe, and Africa.
Prehistory expert André Leroi-Gourhan considers this route as an active space of exchange from the Paleolithic, and heiress of the Jade Route, whose origins go back to 7000 years. However, the route is not mentioned in Chinese chronicles until the 2nd century BC.
The Silk road—which remained active until the 15th century—famously spread trade, economy, and culture.
“Since ancient times all civilizations on the continent of Eurasia used circle shapes to represent the sun. Mongolian yurts have the same structure as the altar,” archaeologist Wu Xinhua commented in the video.
It is well known that the worship of the sun was a common practice among nearly all ancient cultures that existed during this period.
As noted by National Geographic, heaven worship is considered one of China’s oldest forms of religion, and mounds were frequently used for elaborate ceremonies and non-human sacrifices.
However, the exact purpose of the sun altar in Xinjiang has yet to be identified and further studies will be required to get to the bottom of it.
Sun worship was also common among civilizations in Africa and Indo-European regions, as well as North, Central, and South America. Numerous ancient monuments across the planet have been identified as ancient structures that were specifically built for the worship of the sun.
(H/T National Geographic)