The Xiaonanshan site is located in the Raohe County, Heilongjiang Province. There are a large number of archaeological remains have been detected at the site since its initial discovery in early 1950s’. From July to November in 2015, a new season of excavation was launched and conducted by the archaeological team in the collaboration of the Heilongjiang Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology and the local archaeological administration of Yaohe county.
The excavation was carried out in the central part of the east slope of the Xiaonanshan hill, covering an area approximately of 300 square meters. Two cultural phases were recognized. Tombs feature the early phase. Three tombs were radiocarbon dated to 9135 to 85985BP. A large number of jade artifacts along with lithics and ceramics were excavated. Knife-shaped jade pendant, wine-vessel-shaped jade pendant, jade tube, jade dish, jade bracelet and jade axe are characteristically recognized while lithic types include cylindrical shape vessel, splinter, end scraper, lithic leaf and polished arrowhead. There were pottery jars and small cups made of light brown sandy clay. The clay texture was loose. Tombs were dug into earth shafts, embedded into the stone layer on the hill. Corpuses were burnt in some occasions.
Left:Dagger-shaped jade pendant
Right:Hook-shaped jade pendant
Pottery and stone tools were also found in the late phase. Jar was the only type identified in the ceramic assemblage. Dotted and ‘z’ patterns were the background decoration, upon which curves, circles were further drawn in red. Short arrowheads in triangular shape were frequently discovered in lithic assemblages.
The archaeological remains found at the Xiaonanshan site demonstrate characteristic distinctions from other sites in this region. The comb teeth pattern, used as a decoration in the early phase, resonates the style of patterning on the rim and upper parts featuring in the Xinkailiu-Ludenaya and the Kongdong cultures. The pattern on pottery at Xiaonanshan site, however, tended to be simpler. The biface point was the typical lithic found in the transitional Aoxibofuka culture in the lower reach of the Heilongjiang River. The discovery of it in the Xiaonanshan site bridges the Late Palaeolithic Aoxibofuka culture and the Kongdong culture in the latter period, suggesting the existence of a new archaeological culture which has never been recognized in the past. The assemblage from the late phase of Xiaonanshan was associated with the Woziniexieruofu culture, dated to the late Neolithic (approx. 4000 BP) in the Lower reach of the Heilongjiang River. It was the first discovery of this culture in China.
Pottery fragments unearthed from the site
Late-phase pottery fragment unearthed from the site
The evidence from this excavation is powerful to illustrate the significant role of the Xiaonanshan site in the archaeology of North-east Asia. The jades from the early phase are suggestive of the connection to the Hongshan culture, although the difference between these two cultures is readily observed. This, however, has been one of the characteristics of archaeological cultures in North-east Asia. To sum up, the excavation at the Xiaonanshan site has rendered valuable information on tracking the Neolithic cultural sequence in the region of the Wusuli and Heilongjiang Rivers. (Translator: Dong Ningning)