800-year-old tunnels discovered in central China

ZHENGZHOU, July 10 (Bernama) -- Archaeologists recently completed a our-month project to excavate secret tunnels built nearly 800 years ago in central China's Henan Province, Xinhua news agency reported.

Zhao Hong, a researcher with the Cultural Relics Institute of Henan, said seven narrow passages beneath the ruins of an ancient town in Sheqi County were discovered in March, and archaeologists believe they served as escape routes for unarmed residents to use in times of unrest.

Zhao, who is also head archaeologist of the excavation team, said that based on the pots found at entrances to the tunnels and the way in which the underground channels were connected, archaeologists have deduced that people at that time relied on those channels to hide from battles raging above ground.

Based on some unearthed articles including pottery, porcelain, stone, iron, bronze and bone wares, archaeologists calculated that the tunnels were built 800 years ago (in late Jin Dynasty and early Yuan Dynasty), when wars between various ethnicities left China in states of chaos.

"The deepest one is 6 metres below ground. People had to descend from their homes to go down through a shaft chiselled with footholds. Thus, neither the shafts nor the temporary shelters were comfortable, as refugees had to bend low or even creep to pass some sections," Zhao said.

"They could survive on food and water stored in the pots or flee via passages leading to exits far from the residences above ground."

Zhao said that from more than 300 bags of porcelain pieces from the tunnels, about 100 objects can be restored which will be significant for research into the local history, economy and culture.