GUIYANG - Archaeologists have found a number of centuries-old mercury mine sites, including mining pits and smelting furnaces, in southwest China’s Guizhou Province.

The sites were unearthed in Wuchuan Gelao and Miao Autonomous County, famous for its cinnabar production since ancient times, said the provincial cultural relics and archaeological institute.

Mercury was used in ancient China for making cinnabar, or mercuric sulfide, an important ingredient in the ancient production of paints and in the alchemic pursuit of an “immortality elixir.”

Some mine sites were confirmed to date back to the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911), archaeologists said, while the rest await further verification.

The sites were found during an archaeological research in the county, which also led to the discovery of ancient tombs, roads, buildings and industrial sites.