Archaeologists hunting for cultural relics located a cache of silver buried under sunken rocks in the Pengshan District of Jiangkou County, Sichuan province on January 5.

The silver is part of the treasure of Zhang Xianzhong, emperor of the short-lived Xi Dynasty (1644-1646).

Work began last month as the team pumped water out of the site. The excavation marks the first underwater archaeological work in Sichuan province.

During the next three months, the team will excavate an area of 2,000 square meters. Archaeologist Li Fei said the team used metal detectors, 3D modeling and aerial photography to confirm the dig site.

Jiangkou has been the target of relic theft since 2013. The Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute, National Center of Underwater Cultural Heritage and other department has been cooperating to protect the cultural relics.

Liu Yanzhi, a spokesperson for the institute, said water kept welling up even after the area was pumped dry.

Liu said the treasure is expected to be 2 and 3 meters below the water level. The site’s unstable nature has been a challenge for the team, he said.

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