Remains of Late Longshan Culture and Zhou Dynasty Found in Sunzhai Site, Henan Province
Sunzhai Site is located in Pingqiao District, Xinyang City, Henan Province, consisted of southeastern and northwestern terraces, which were 2 meters’ higher than that of around area. The southeastern one was oval in plane ; 182 to 284 meters in the west and east direction, 152 to 210 meters in the north and south direction, with an area of 52,000 square meters. The northwestern one was square in plane, 84 to 127 meters in the west and east direction, 114 to 120 meters in the north and south direction, with an area of 13,000 square meters. These two terraces were connected by pathway, and surrounded by ditches.
House remain F1
Ash ditch G10
From October in 2015 to July in 2016, in order to cooperate with the infrastructure, Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology conducted three large-scaled excavations to the site, with an area of 4300 square meters so far, dating back to the Neolithic Age and Western Zhou Dynasty, mainly were from the Neolithic Age.
The remains of the Neolithic Age were located at the northwestern terrace, with an excavation area of 3600 square meters, remains and relics were unearthed , including 63 ash pits, 20 ditches, 1 house remain and 2 pottery kitchen range; The relics were mainly pottery and stone tools, without bone artifacts.
The ash pits were mainly round and oval in plane, few were square with round angles; and the structures were mainly straight walls (which were smooth) and flat bottom. The filling soils inside the pits were mainly taupe and tawny; and that of taupe had more relics. While the tawny one were round in plane , and had few relics, about 3 meters in diameter, 1 meters in depth, straight and smooth walls and flat bottom, while half round post-hole remains were found on the inner walls, fine sand were paved at the bottom, such as ash pit H42. This type of ash pits were nearly the same, concentrated distributed, well-built, it could be used as house foundation or cellar.
Stone tools unearthed from the site
The ash ditches were mainly distributed at the east of the northwestern terrace, crisscrossed, slope walls, narrow and shallow flat bottom, less relics were unearthed, indicating that they were used as temporary drainage. The remains at the east (ash ditches concentrated distributed) and west (cultural layers and ash pits) of G10 were completely diverse, indicating that G10 was not only used as drainage but also as defense and boundary.
Only 1 house foundation was found on the southeastern terrace, numbered as F1. It was rectangular in the direction of northwest to southeast, only foundation trench and posthole were found. The foundation was about 7.5 meters in length, 3.5 meters in width, consisted of 2 foundation trenches and 13 postholes. The postholes were widely spaced in the west wall, which inferred the gateway might exist here.
Ash pit H42
Most of the pottery was grey pottery, a few red and few brown. Sandy ware and fine clay ware were the majority. The patterns varied, including basket pattern (mainly), cord pattern, as well as check, additional heap, and bow-string patterns (fewest). The shape included sandy jar, Dou-steamer, urn, Ding-tripod foot, flat bottom bowl, lid, basin, cup and etc. Stone artifacts were mainly polished, including axe, shovel, crescent-shaped perforated knife, sickle, chisel, arrowhead, gravel and etc.
The Western Zhou Cultural remain was located at the southeastern terrace, with an area of 700 square meters excavated. Only 2 ash pits were found, with straight and smooth walls and flat bottom. Few artifacts were unearthed, mainly the foot and mouth of Li-tripod. More pieces of relics were unearthed from cultural layer, including the foot and mouth of Li-tripod, Yan-vessel, Dou-steamer, jar, basin, urn and etc.
Thanks to the excavation, archaeologists gained primary understanding of the date, scale, settlement distribution and evolution of Sunzhai site.
The excavation was concentrated at the northwestern terrace, and the achievements were mainly from the Neolithic Age. The pottery combination included sandy jar, flat bottom bowl, Ding-tripod, Dou-steamer, urn (straight mouth and shallow shoulder), lid. The patterns were mainly basket and cord pattern, few were check patterns. Stone tools were mainly axe, arrowhead, shovel, crescent-shaped perforated knife. The Neolithic remains were mainly from the Late Longshan Culture.
Apart from that, a few relics of Erlitou Culture and the Early Shang Dynasty were unearthed recently. Such as wide-mouth Zun vessel, fragments of wide-mouth jar with additional heap pattern, and foot and mouth of red sandy pottery were found. While the Western Zhou remains were mainly Li-tripod, Dou steamer and urn. The excavation indicated that Sunzhai Site experienced the development from Late Longshan Culture to the Western Zhou dynasty, which providing significance for understanding the cultural accumulation and settlement changes of the site.
Pottery pot of late Longshan culture
Compared these two excavations, the development from the northwestern to the southeastern terrace of Sunzhai Site were revealed. In the Late Longshan Culture period, the living area was broader, and the remains were found on both terrace. While in the Western Zhou dynasty, few remains were found on the northwestern terrace, indicating that no human beings living there anymore, and they moved to the southeastern one, and there was obviously subareas within the northwestern terrace. Only a few remains were found in the Erlitou Culture and the Early Shang Dynasty, thus no distribution information was found.
The architectural techniques of some of the ash pits excavated this time were obvious, the discovery of bottom-paved fine sand and inside wall-built post were the first found in Xinyang area, providing significance to studying the house building technology of the Neolithic in this area. (Translator: Wang Jue)