YINCHUAN, May 18 (Xinhua) -- Chinese archaeologists
say they have found more than 2,000 pictographs dating back 7,000 to 8,000
years, about 3,000 years before other texts that are believed to be the origin
of modern Chinese characters.
The pictographs are on the rock carvings in Damaidi,
at Beishan Mountain in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, which
covers about 450 square kilometers with more than 10,000 prehistoric rock
Paleographers claim that the pictographs may take the
history of Chinese characters back to 7,000 to 8,000 years ago.
Previously, scholars believed the earliest Chinese
characters included 3,000-year-old inscriptions on bones and tortoise shells,
known as the Oracle Bones, and 4,500-year-old pottery-born inscriptions, both
found in central Henan Province, one of the birthplaces of Chinese civilization.
"We have found some symbols shaped like both pictures
and characters," said Li Xiangshi, a cliff carving expert at the North
University of Nationalities based in Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia.
"The pictographs are similar to the ancient
hieroglyphs of Chinese characters and many can be identified as ancient
characters," said Li.
The Damaidi carvings, first discovered in the late
1980s, cover15 square kilometers with 3,172 cliff carvings, featuring 8,453
individual figures such as the sun, moon, stars, gods and scenes of hunting or
"Through arduous research, we have found that some
pictographs are commonly seen in up to hundreds of pictures in the carvings,"
said Liu Jingyun, an expert on ancient Oracle Bone characters.
"The size, shape and meanings of the pictographs in
different carvings are the same," Liu said.
Liu believed the meanings of all the pictographs
could be deciphered on the basis of certain classifications such as gender.