Durham University’s Archaeology Department first UK team to excavate China’s Forbidden City

By Tania Chakraborti

Members of Durham University’s Department of Archaeology have become the first UK team to excavate within the walls of the Forbidden City, China.

The Department, ranked fourth in the world according to the QS World University Subject Rankings, teamed up with China’s Palace Museum in May to carry out the dig. The excavation focussed on a small trench beneath one of the courtyards of the Imperial Palace.

In April 2016, the two renowned institutions entered into a new partnership aimed at fostering “cultural engagement”, as well as the sharing of enhanced research methods, resources and expertise. The Forbidden City was the imperial palace of China between 1420 and 1912; spanning across the Ming to Qing dynasties. Thus far, only eight excavations have been carried out in the Forbidden City, all of which have been conducted by the Palace Museum.

Durham University has cited the benefits to the agreement with the Museum, especially as the University is “home to over 1,700 students from China and offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chinese Studies”.

Dr Derek Kennet, Associate Professor of the Department stated of the archaeological dig: “It is a great honour to have been invited to excavate in the Forbidden City and to work closely with esteemed colleagues from the Palace Museum on this project.

“Archaeological insights are so crucial in learning more about the early history of cities, countries and cultures and we hope that this work will add to the understanding of the development of this iconic palace of national and international significance.”

Photograph by Roman Boed via Flickr and Creative Commons

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