For centuries it was just a legend, that a vast trove of treasure had spilt into China’s Minjiang River as a battle raged upon its banks. Turns out, it was true.
More than 10,000 individual items of gold and silver have been recovered from the bottom of the river as it winds its way through Sichuan Province.
Chinese archaeologists have confirmed its many pieces date from between 1368 and 1644AD.
This places it squarely in the scope of the tale of how the leader of a Chinese peasant uprising lost his hoard when ambushed while attempting to move it south aboard 100 boats.
For centuries, it was just a story. A rumour.
“The objects uncovered are the most direct and compelling evidence to identify the area where the battle was fought,” Wang Wei, a Chinese archaeologist, told t he state-run Xinhua news agency .
The trove was found at the intersection of the Minjiang and Jinjiang rivers, some 50km south of the capital of Sichuan, Chengdu.
It was 2005 when the first indications that the site may have significance emerged. Construction workers pulled seven silver bullion ingots from the gravel of the river bank. The site was declared a protected area in 2010, though Xinhua reports treasure hunters have repeatedly raided the site. Excavation efforts involved draining a 10,000 square meter section of the river using pumps and retaining walls. Large quantities of gold, silver and bronze were uncovered in the form of coins, jewellery and weapons.
Many pieces remain in good condition, the archaeologists report, with inscriptions on several gold and silver utensils still clear to read.
Archaeologists say they expect to continue digging at the site until April.