China Olympics construction unearths cultural relics

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BEIJING, Nov 13 (Reuters) China's multi-billion-dollar building boom ahead of the Beijing Olympics has unearthed hundreds of ancient relics -- some 2,000 years old -- leaving archaeologists to pick up pieces behind construction crews.

The director of the State Administration and Cultural Heritage, Shan Jixiang, has urged local officials to conduct archaeological investigations of sites before construction, the China Daily reported today.

But in the rush to finish projects ahead of the August 2008 opening of the Games, the earth movers are driving on.

''Archaeologists in Beijing are following bulldozers,'' an archaeologist with the Beijing municipal cultural heritage administration, who requested anonymity, told the newspaper.

More than 1,500 gold, ceramic, jade and other artifacts have been recovered from Beijing's Olympic stadium sites, and more than 700 ancient tombs have been found on the sites during the past two years, the newspaper reported.

The archaeologist said some of the relics dated back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD).

Breakneck economic development also has claimed many historic ''hutong'' alleyways and architectural icons in the capital.

But Beijing's problem is not unique in the fast-growing country.

''China's cities have undergone huge changes, with many of their older quarters being reshaped, often to the detriment of their cultural heritage,'' Shan told the newspaper.

Shan said the government will spend more money to help preserve 100 of the country's famous historical sites, including the Great Wall and some sections of the Silk Street shopping area.

''The next few years will be a critical time for these sites because of the ongoing urbanisation,'' he said.


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