Chinese archeologists announced Thursday they have excavated more than 30,000 relics from a riverbed. They are believed to be treasures owned by the leader of an ancient uprising.
The retrieved relics include more than 10,000 gold and silver objects taken from the Jiangkou stretch of the Minjiang River in Meizhou City, Sichuan Province.
Coins, jewelry, domestic objects such as silver spoons and mirrors, porcelain plates, and iron weapons including swords, knives and spears were among the items.
Characters carved on some relics were directly linked to the Daxi regime established by Zhang Xianzhong, leader of a peasant uprising at the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
Legend had it that in 1646, Zhang was defeated by Ming soldiers while attempting to transfer his large haul of treasure southward. About 1,000 boats loaded with money and assorted valuables were said to have sunk in the skirmish.
The rich findings confirmed there is some truth to the legend.
"The objects spanned the middle and late periods of the Ming Dynasty and came from areas covering more than half of China's territory at the time," said Gao Dalun, director of the Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics and Archeology Research Institute.
"They directly show the politics, military and social life during this period, so much so that they can be regarded as the most important archeological discovery since the Dingling Tomb," he said.
The Dingling Tomb, in the suburbs of Beijing, was the first imperial tomb to have been excavated in China. Ming Dynasty Emperor Wan Li and two of his wives were buried there in 1620.
The current round of excavation ended on Wednesday. Workers dug 20,000 square meters of the riverbed, only 2 percent of the estimated relic site.
Excavation work will resume next year when the river is at low water levels.
Gao said the institute plans to organize an exhibition tour across China and an international forum on the excavation of the sunken treasure site this year, to be attended by domestic and foreign experts.