Ancient deer-shaped rock paintings found in Gansu, China

Updated 2019-04-25 20:21:00

Archaeologist in Dahe town in Sunan county in Northwest China's Gansu province discovered many ancient rock paintings, including some in deer-shaped pattern, in the Yangkan Gorge and the Yumu Mountain in the Qilian Mountains on April 15.

The Yangkan Gorge, where the rock paintings were found, is located with at an altitude of over 2,760 meters. The cultural relics professionals discovered six groups and 16 rock paintings on the ground rock facing the southeast in the bottom of the valley. The paintings include deer, cattle, hunting patterns, etc., five of which are most prominent in the deer rock paintings. With a length of 6 cm and a height of 8 cm, the largest one has a tall horns and a well-proportioned body and limbs, with four legs slightly bending. There is a sucking deer in the abdomen of the dear (the male and female reindeers both have horns), with a running-like deer in front of it.

Deer-shaped rock paintings said to be about 3,500-year-old are discovered in Yugur Autonomous county of Sunan in Northwest China's Gansu province, which provide basis for studying the ecological environment of ancient Qilian Mountains. [Photo by Huang Minjiang for chinadaily.com.cn]

Du Chengfeng, a member of the Chinese Rock Art Institution and the founder of the Qilian Mountain Rock Painting Studio, said, "The chiseling technique of these deer rock paintings is to use the point-like chisel point to carry out the contour composition, and then the whole body is carved. It could be determined on the spot that the chiseling tool belongs to metal tools, which may be bronze tools or early iron tools. Using the attributes of chiseling tools combined with the prehistoric climate research of the Hexi Corridor and the living habits of deer, it was inferred that the deer paintings, with a history of 3,500 years, belongs to the Bronze Age or the early Iron Age."

Most of rock paintings of Yumu Mountain, located in the Qilian Mountains, are engraved on the lacquer slate and shale of the black Cambrian desert with relatively hard texture. Because of its high altitude, the vegetation is mainly xerophytic semi-shrub herbs, and there are a certain number of spruce, eucalyptus, sand jujube and shrub forests in the north of the valley.

Deer-shaped rock paintings said to be about 3,500-year-old are discovered in Yugur Autonomous county of Sunan in Northwest China's Gansu province, which provide basis for studying the ecological environment of ancient Qilian Mountains. [Photo by Huang Minjiang for chinadaily.com.cn]

Du said, "The deer in the rock painting is one of the animals witnessed by the ancestors. Different types of deer have a relatively preferred living environment and are highly depend on changing vegetation. Most of them live in tundra, forest areas, deserts, shrubs and swamps. Deer rock paintings provide direct historical climate evidence not only for the calculation of approximate time of the deer living in the Hexi Corridor, but also for the research of ancient Qilian Mountain ecological environment and the living conditions of the herdsmen."

Up to now, among the rock paintings discovered in the Qilian Mountain, 86 pieces (nearly 5,000 rock paintings) were found in the Yumu Mountain. Most of these rock paintings are preserved intact, and most of the pictures are animal figures. The Yumu Mountain, the most concentrated range found in the Qilian Mountains, is also a rare open-air rock painting museum.

Huang Minjiang contributed to this story; videos and photos by Huang Minjiang

Deer-shaped rock paintings said to be about 3,500-year-old are discovered in Yugur Autonomous county of Sunan in Northwest China's Gansu province, which provide basis for studying the ecological environment of ancient Qilian Mountains. [Photo by Huang Minjiang for chinadaily.com.cn]

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