Aolimi City Site of Sheng Nvzhen Tribe from Liao and Jin Dynasties excavated in Heilongjiang Province
Aolimi City site is an important ancient city site situated in the lower range of Songhuajiang River. The city has aroughly rounded-rectangular plane and a more-than-3000m perimeter. The city walls were built by rammed earth between board frames. There are bastions and turrets found. Outside the city, there is a moat. Besides, there found gateways and barbican entrance in the slightly northern part in the middle of east wall.
Research on the city site is mainly focused on proving that it is the location of “Aolimi” tribe, one of the five tribes of Sheng Nvzhen in Liao Dynasty through documentary and geological evidences. As an important water transport station leading to the lower range of Heilongjiang river, It was used during Jin Dynasty and lasted until Yuan and Ming Dynasties.
Aolimi City site was discovered in 1973. In 2015, it was excavated by Heilongjiang Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology again.
The aerial photo of Aolimi city site
House foundation F1 in aera IV
Archaeological Works in 2015
There are two aspects of works being mainly conducted during this season. First, drilling work of present dyke-dam and revetment have been carried out to search for the south wall of the city, confirm its connections to the east and west walls and recognize stratigraphic deposits layers of the southern part within the city; Second, based on the drilling result, trail excavation of remains in the area near the river and in the southern part of the dyke-dam was conducted to have a better understanding of shape and structure of the city wall as well as distribution and characteristics of remains within the city.
Run of city walls and plane of present city site are confirmed by overall personal survey of the city site and RTK mapping. The north wall is best-preserved and about 933m long, 3-5m high residue. There are 18 bastions with a 20-30m apart. There is an about 1-2m deep and 10m wide moat outside the walls. East and north corners have been destroyed where used to be turrets. The east wall is 612m long with 12 bastions. There is a break in the north of the middle part, which should be remains of a gateway. The north part of west wall is more than 300m residue with 4 bastions. The south part was destroyed by Aolai River and only 225m long residue in east part of south wall with only 2 bastions recognizable. The rest of bastions were ruined by Aolai River.
According to results of the drilling, archaeological trial excavation has been conducted in the southwest corner of the city ruins and the inner part of the revetment along the dam which was presumed to be the location of the south city wall in the southern part of the site. Run of the city wall in southwest corner and distributions of cultural layers in the southern part of the city are preliminarily explored.
Left:Green-glazed dragon pattern ceramic fragment
Right:Horns of roe deer
26 ash pits and 1 house foundation were cleared in the southern part of the city. The house foundation is ground architecture with a fuzzy outline and a complete flue which was double-flue with “┐”-shaped plane.
The opening of the hearth is circular with sloping wall and round bottom. The deposits within the hearth are red burned earth and ashes. The end of the flue is a shallow and round pit.
The ash pits have round, square, irregular planes and so on. Most of them yield large quantity of pottery shards, animal bones and so on being unearthed.
Pottery is the mainstream of unearthed artifacts, most of which are grey clay pottery with rich pattern combination. There are jars, urns, pen-plates, covers, net sinkers, balls and so on and as well a few architectural elements, such as tiles and bricks with mat patterns. Porcelains include a small quantity of porcelain shards, including white-glazed shards and blue-glazed shards which should be the products from Ding Kiln and Jun Kiln. Iron artifacts have many daily-used tools or weapons ranging from arrowheads, hooks, rings, plowshares and etc. Besides, there are a few bone tools, such as hairpins, daggers and etc. In addition, there are certain quantities of bronze coins, most of which are coins from Northern Song Dynasty.
frustum cone-shaped pottery
Coins unearthed from the site
South wall of Aolimi city was already ruined due to long-time erosion of the river. This season’s survey and drilling once again confirm the location of joints of east and west walls, further figuring out the run and basic form of city walls.
According to the excavation, deposits of cultural layers in partial area of the city are preliminarily understood. The cultural layers of southeast city are thick, mainly including earth with activity traces, such as burned soil, ashes and charcoal and etc., which indicates that the southern part of the city is residential spaces. Based on a group of artifacts including pottery with clear stratigraphic relations, it’s safe to say there are remains from Liao and Jin periods respectively in the city. They provide important references for chronological research on pottery from Liao and Jin periods in this region.
Apart from pottery, there are plenty of fauna bones in the remains, a few of which bear cutting and polishing traces and should be used as raw materials for tools. They are important materials for understanding economy and subsistence of Liao and Jin periods in local area.
Aolimi city is situated in the hinterland of Sanjiang Plain, which is the distribution region of Sheng Nvzhen tribe during Liao and Jin Periods. Researchers believe this city site has direct relations to “Aolimi Tribe”, one of the five tribes from Liao Dynasty. This survey and drilling gather significant and fundamental materials for understanding structure and form, and the construction and use of the city, enhancing and pushing overall archaeological works and academic research on Aolimi city site in future. （Translator: Ma Huanhuan）