Discover China: Unveiling "Oriental Pompeii" on ancient Silk Road
Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in June launched a project to preserve the site of the ancient Loulan, dubbed "Oriental Pompeii," investing some 9.42 million yuan (about 1.4 million U.S. dollars).
Loulan was a prosperous settlement built around 2,000 years ago to serve traders transiting through the ancient Silk Road. However, with time, references to Loulan mysteriously disappeared. The site is today located in the wilderness of southern Xinjiang's Ruoqiang County.
In 2019, cultural relics protection staff found the ruins of a pagoda and three rooms with their foundations collapsed to various extents. Fractures, holes and erosion near the ground were also visible on the buildings.
The project mainly aims to excavate and reinforce the site, and a 30-person construction team is guarding the ancient city day and night.
The construction team selected soil materials from the periphery of the structures to prepare adobe so as to support the collapsed parts of the foundations and repair the damage using traditional techniques, said Jiao Yingxin with the cultural relics protection department of Ruoqiang.
"By the end of July, the reinforcement of the site and the foundations of the three rooms had been basically completed, and workers are now starting to carry out work toward the pagoda," Jiao said.
Archaeologists found that the extreme sandstorms in Lop Nur, home to the ancient Loulan, were the main cause of damage and the collapse of the site.
According to meteorological data from the last five years, the Loulan area sees 80 days per year with winds of 17.2 to 20.7 meters per second; floating dust conditions prevail 115 to 193 days per year; and the surface temperature in summer is 70 degrees Celsius.
The project is being conducted by Northwest Research Institute Co., Ltd. of CREC, which has also participated in cultural relics protection work for UNESCO world heritage sites, including the Mogao Grottoes and the Leshan Giant Buddha.
Zhou Peng, an engineer from the company, said the team has moved operations into the night since August to avoid the adverse effects of high temperatures and other environmental factors, and the project is expected to be completed by November.
The mysterious city was first rediscovered by Swedish adventurer Sven Hedin in 1900. The structural ruins he found were square in shape.
Loulan thrived around an oasis in a part of the desert known as "No man's land." The red willow branches and reeds found among the ruins of a circular wall had been carbon dated, and the results suggested the structure dates back to the late period of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220).
Archeologists theorize the city was one of the capitals established by the Kingdom of Loulan, which was moved several times due to scarce water resources, natural disasters, widespread disease and war. It had disappeared completely by the Tang Dynasty (618-907).
Since the 20th century, archeologists from around the world have found a significant number of well-preserved structures and artifacts around the site of Loulan. Enditem