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Archaeology is unique among the sciences. It has a wide popular following and addresses a body of knowledge - the material record of the past - that attracts the interests of often fiercely antagonistic groups: collectors and museums, on the one hand; archaeologists and anthropologists, on the other, with art historians somewhere in the middle, and, of course, the many other permutations that arise. However, all these groups share an interest in the material record of human development that archaeology provides and interprets.

Since the 1980s, Chinese archaeologists have made many discoveries that call for a re-write of some chapters of Chinese prehistory, history and art history. Obligated by law to excavate sites that are threatened by construction projects or have been disturbed by tomb robbers, China's thousands of professional and semi-professional archaeologists have a massive task meeting the demands placed on the profession.

Archaeology has long been significant in China, the world's oldest continuous nation, in which there has long been a traditional reverence for the past. The 1990s saw a re-emergence of heritage concerns in China and the first steps in the direction of an emerging public archaeological consciousness.

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