Archaeologists may have finally solved the mystery of where Kublai Khan's legendary Yuan dynasty palace once stood. During underground renovations at the Palace Museum in Beijing, experts found "a 3-meter thick rammed earth and rubble foundation" that indicates part of the palace may have once stood where the museum is now located.
The museum's site has also been found to be the one-time home of both the Ming and Qing dynasty palaces, meaning the Yuan dynasty palace could be just another layer in a long line of construction projects. "From a historical perspective, it gives us evidence that the architectural history runs uninterrupted from the Yuan, to the Ming and Qing dynasties," said Wang Guangyao, the museum's Institute of Archaeology deputy director.
Prior to this discovery, some of the only clues archaeologists had about Khan's palace were from 13th-century Venetian merchant Marco Polo's writings, in which Polo described the imperial home as "the greatest palace there ever was." Polo claimed that the walls were "covered with silver and gold" and that the main hall was so massive it "could easily seat 6,000 people for dinner," South China Morning Post reports.
However, after the Yuan dynasty, which lasted from 1279 to 1368, the palace seemingly disappeared — until, that is, right now. "As archaeologists, we can only define what we have found," Wang said, noting that it was too early to draw any conclusions about connections between the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties from the finding. "But it gives us a direction for future exploration." Becca Stanek