This is the first monographic archaeological survey using the technology of aerial photography in the PRC. From April 26th to May 28th, 1996, under the direction of Mr. Yu Weichao, a famous archaeologist and then curator of the Museum of Chinese History, the Aerial Archaeology Workgroup of the Museum of Chinese History, cooperated with Luoyang Municipal Management Commission Office of Cultural Relics and other units, used 5 transport aircrafts and R22 helicopters to fly over Luoyang Basin for more than 40 hours and cover a survey area of more than 1000 km². Aerial photography and visual reconnaissance activities were carried out, and a number of aerial photos were taken over the sites of Erlitou, Yanshi City of Shang Dynasty, Capital City of Han and Wei Dynasties, Mausoleums of Mangshan Mountain, Longmen Grottoes, as well as Mausoleums of Song Dynasty in Gongyi, etc.
In 2006, with the support of the State Bureau of Cultural Relics, the Archaeological Research Center of Remote Sensing and Aerial Photography of the National Museum of China cooperated again with Luoyang Municipal Work Team of Archaeology to organize these important aerial photography data. Moreover, for the purpose of using aerial photos of different periods to analyze the remains and conservation situation of these sites from the view in the sky, we also collected aerial mapping photos of Luoyang Basin taken from the 1960s to 1970s as reference, and included in the study the Capital City of East Zhou Dynasty along with Luoyang City of Sui and Tang Dynasties which were not shot in 1996.
Erlitou Site of Yanshi is located on the south bank of Luo River, about 10 km east of Luoyang and 9 km southwest of Yanshi. It is about 2400 m long from east to west and 1900 m wide from north to south, covering a total area of about 3 million m². The site was discovered in 1957, with the excavation area being more than 50,000 m² so far. Remains like the base of a large palace building, bases of small houses, roads, pottery kilns, copper workshops and tombs are found, and the city is considered to be the capital of the late Xia Dynasty. According to the aerial photographic survey, the yellowing area of wheat is related to the distribution of underground remains.
The site of Yanshi City of Shang Dynasty is located between Dahuaishu Village and Tazhuang Village at the west side of Yanshi. It was discovered in the spring of 1983. The site is composed of a large city, a small city and an imperial city. The large city is about 1700 m long from north to south and 1215 m wide form east to west, covering an area of about 190 million m². The city is buried 1 to 4 m deep under the ground. Gates, palaces, storehouses, ditches, houses, tombs and copper workshops are found, which make the site an important city of the early Shang Dynasty. The yellowing area of wheat is also related to the distribution of underground remains according to aerial photographic survey.
The site of the Capital City of East Zhou Dynasty is located at the west side of Luoyang. It was discovered in the 1950s. The plane shape is square, and the side length is 3500 to 4000 m long. Important remains like palaces, storehouses, workshops, mausoleums and tombs are found in the city. The walls were built during the Spring and Autumn Period, and experienced restoration in the Warring States Period, the Qin and Han Dynasties, till the Tang Dynasty. In 1966 and 1979, some remains of the city walls were still visible on panchromatic aerial photos.
The site of the Capital City of Han and Wei Dynasties is located 15 km east of Luoyang, backed by Mangshan Mountain in the north and facing Yiluo River in the south. The city comprises an imperial city, an inner city and an outer city. Survey and excavation tasks have been conducted since the 1950s, with important remains like gates, palaces, temples, ritual buildings, markets, roads and tombs found. Walls and building bases can be seen on panchromatic and color aerial photos of different times.
The site of Luoyang City of Sui and Tang Dynasties is located in the main urban area of Luoyang. The side length of the outer city is 6138 to 7312 m, covering an area of 47 km². It was the capital of the Sui and Tang Dynasties, as well as the Later Liang, the Later Tang, and the Later Jin of the Five Dynasties Period. The site is composed of an outer city, an inner city, an east city, city of Hanjia Granary, and an imperial city. Remains like bridges, river levees, ditches and kilns are found. Due to the dense distribution of modern buildings in this area, only panchromatic aerial photos of 1966 and 1979 are available for reference.
The Mausoleums of Mangshan Mountain are located in the northern, eastern and northeastern parts of Luoyang, where the Mangshan Mountain lies. There are mausoleums and subordinate tombs of 6 dynasties as the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, the Eastern Han Dynasty, the Cao Wei Dynasty, the Western Jin Dynasty, the Northern Wei Dynasty, and the Later Tang Dynasty, which distribute within a range of 50 km long from east to west and 20 km wide from north to south, covering an area of more than 750 km². Mounds of the mausoleums were visible on the panchromatic aerial photos from the 1950s to 1970s, while a lot of mound shapes were also recorded in aerial color photos of 1996.
As an important ancient capital and a famous historic and cultural city of China, and with its rich resources of archaeological sites and cultural relics, Luoyang has become one of the major great site conservation regions supported by the State Bureau of Cultural Relics since 2005. There are 5 ancient capital sites distributed within a range of less than 50 km from east to west along the Luo River. Among them, Erlitou Site, Yanshi City of Shang Dynasty, the Capital City of Han and Wei Dynasties, as well as Luoyang City of Sui and Tang Dynasties are listed as the first 36 conservation key spots in “The Outline of National Conservation of Great Sites” by the State Bureau of Cultural Relics and the National Ministry of Finance. The site of the Capital City of East Zhou Dynasty has recently been approved as a national key cultural relics conservation unit. The site of Mausoleums of Mangshan Mountain is included in the list of 100 national conservation key great sites during the 11th Five-Year Plan period.