• Archaeoastronomical Study of the Taosi Observatory from the Late Neolithic China
  • Update Time: 2014-02-26

Archeological studies have revealed abundant material culture of the late Neolithic age of the legendary Emperor Yao (2400-2100 BC). The recent excavation of a semi-circular wall structure in the middle-phase lesser city of the Taosi city-site (Known as II FJT1) is a landmark discovery that will throw significant light on the Pre-historic Chinese civilization. On-spot observations and preliminary analyses suggest this site could be the remains of the earliest astronomical observatory in ancient China, even more ancient than the British Stonehenge. In this project we aim at reaching a reliable scientific conclusion about the functions of this prehistoric observatory (hereafter referred to as Taosi Astronomical Observatory, or TAO) through comprehensive archaeoastronomical study. The outcomes of this study will contribute not only to the exploration and reconstruction of early Chinese civilization, but also to our understanding of astronomy and cosmology of human race before historic ages. If scientifically proved, the TAO will certainly feature a spectacular entry in the World Cultural Heritage list.

   Research will focus on the following goals: 1. Investigation of astronomical functions of TAO. 2. Archeological study of the related material culture. 3. Historical investigations on related issues in ancient Chinese astronomy.

   The research project, led by Prof. Sun Xiaochun, will be a collaborative effort by members from this institute, National Astronomical Observatory of China, and Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Its duration is from 2008 to 2011. It is funded by National Science Foundation of China and by Chinese Academy of Science.