Bone flutes, turquoise ornaments, and Sacrificed Remains found at Jiahu Site, Central China
Jiahu culture is named after Jiahu site which locates in Jiahu Village, Beiwudu County, Wuyang Town, Luohe, Henan. As a site of Peiligang cultural period, Jiahu site covers the biggest excavated area and unearths richest relics. It dates back to 9000-7500 years ago. Seven excavations had been carried out from 1980s to 2001. The earliest bone flutes so far discovered in China, original character material as well as the remains of the earliest rice agriculture and domestic pigs and so on are of great academic values in the research of origins of Chinese characters, agriculture, domestic animals and music history of China, and even the world. Besides, the bone flutes and the like are of high artistic value, too.
Aerial map of excavation area at Jiahu site
During September to December, 2013, the 8th excavation of Jiahu site has been carried out by Henan Institute of Relics and Archaeology and China Science and Technology University. The excavated zone is in the middle of the site, covering 300 square meters. During this season, 97 tombs, 9 houses, 25 pits as well as 2 animal pits are cleared. Plenty of pottery shards and remains of animals and plants are found. Furthermore, no less than 600 objects of pottery, stone, bones, horns, teeth and so on are discovered, too.
All of the tombs are earthen shaft tombs, and most of them are in east-west direction. During this excavation, two south-north direction tombs belonging to later period are found in the first time. The intensively distributed tombs overlapped and had complicated broken relationships. For the most tombs, there is always a pottery he-pot putting by the side of the dead’s head. Besides, other funeral gifts are found, too, including bone flutes, bone fish darts, bone arrowheads, turtle shells, ivory engravings, animal teeth, ceramic bo-bowls, stone grinders, stone axes, ornaments of turquoise and so on.
For example, as an earthen shaft tomb, M55 is rectangular in plane and 2.7m long and 1.25m wide. The southern part is destroyed by a modern well. From preliminary judgment, the grave master is a roughly six-year-old child who is about 1 m tall with the head facing west. An ivory engraving is put below the head, and a round-belly hu-pot with two ears is on the left side of the head. Three pieces of pottery are discovered near the north wall of the tomb. What’s more, ornaments of turquoise are found on the neck, waist as well as legs. 228 turquoise pieces are found on the skeleton. Moreover, four turtle shells with stones inside cover the feet of the dead. Besides, a tooth of river deer is found by the side of the feet. All of these discoveries demonstrate the significance of the grave owner’s social status.
Tombs M56, M62, M65, M73, M75, M81 and so on, have lots of ornaments of turquoise, too. These tombs are belonged to the second phase of Jiahu culture according to the time of the artifacts and cultural stratums. The unearthed ornaments of turquoise are in different sizes, which range from 1mm to 3mm showing the difficulty and accuracy of procession. So many ornaments of turquoise are found for the first time in the tombs which are intensively distributed in the northwest zone of the excavation, indicating that certain social division and different sections of tombs might already existed at that time.
Plan of house remains F5 at Jiahu site
Nine house foundations are cleared. The deposits in F5 can be divided into two layers. The remains of the house in upper layer are square in plane. Only the floor is recognized with an area of 4 m long and 3.6m wide. The doorway is in the southeast corner and only 0.7m wide. The remains of the house in lower layer are rectangular in plane and it is 4m long and 2.8m wide. The gateway is in the east wall of the house with a width of 1m. From the deposits which are 30cm below the lower floor, two east-west dust grooves are found symmetrically in the north and south sides. And there is a skeleton inside each groove. The north one is numbered tomb M68, while the south one is tomb M69. The tomb owner of M68 is buried in a place which is only 36cm wide. The deceased is indicated to be killed by a stone axe because the head has a blunt injury and the ribs are obviously deformed by pressure. A pottery hu-pot is found by the side of the head, and a stone axe is near the feet. Besides, an ivory engraving is put on the thigh of the tomb master, and two bone flutes are found beside the waist. What’s more, there are bone fish darts and teeth of river deer and so on beside the shins. More or less the same, M69 is only 40cm wide. A hu-pot with folding shoulder, a guan-jar with a slightly curled mouth and a set of turtle shells are put by the north side of tomb owner’s head. And two bone flutes are on the north side of the waist and a tooth of river deer is on the left foot. From the states of death, the burial location and fashions, these two tombs might relate to sacrificial ceremony or the rituals for house foundation.
bone flute unearthed from Jiahu site
Most of the ash pits are round in plane and have sloping walls and basin-like flat bases. But some of them have bag-shaped flat bases. The artifacts conclude pottery, animal bones, turtle shells and so on. Especially, H11, broken by tombs and postholes of houses in later period, unearths plenty of animal bones, turtle shells and ceramic shards.
unearthed hu-pots with a spout
unearthed ivory engravings
In addition, there are two animal pits. SK1 is located on the north side of the middle zone of excavation unit T0203. A dog skeleton is buried inside.
A lot of tombs and rich relics are discovered in this season of excavation. Except bone flutes, bone folk-shaped artifacts, turtle shells, hu-pots with a spout that are found before, there are many new phenomena, such as three flutes found in one tomb and so on. Besides, the exquisitely made ivory engravings are very rare in the Neolithic sites. Moreover, tombs buried with a great deal of beautiful and precise ornaments of turquoise, and probable burial phenomenon as sacrifice for house foundation or other rituals and so on, are scarcely seen before. All of these achievements not only deepen the understanding of Jiahu culture and enrich the cultural content of Jiahu site, but also provide new materials for the discussion of human culture and social structure in Neolithic period of Huaihe River. (Translator: Ma Huanhuan)