New Archaeological Discoveries and Researches in 2004 -- The Forth Archaeology Forum of CASS
Initiated in 2001, the “Archaeology Forum of CASS” sponsored by the CASS, the IACASS and the Kaogu Press has become one of the most important platform for the exchange of new archaeological information. The “Forth Archaeology Forum of CASS” held on 11th, January 2005 in Beijing again attracted the attention both from the archaeological circle and the medias. Six lecturers from different archaeological institutes gave the listeners a chance to enjoy the latest archaeological discoveries and researches in 2004.
The Prehistoric Beifudi site in Yixian County, Hebei Province
(Lectured by Professor Duan Hongzheng, deputy director of the Hebei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology)
The site, with an area of 3 ha, is located at the terrace on the northern bank of the Yishui River in the Yixian County, Hebei Province. The Hebei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics conducted several excavations at the site in 2003 and 2004. The total exposed area is more than 1200 sq m. Neolithic assemblage of the site consists of two phases.
Remains of the first phase, dating to 7000-8000 BP, include ash-pits, ten semi-subterranean houses and a ritual area. Within the ritual area, were found more than 90 artifacts, including ceramic pots of middle or small sizes and finely made stone tools. The straight-belly pot and vessel-seat are the main types of pottery.
However, the most significant discovery from the site is the large number of pottery masks in the shapes of human and animal faces. Assemblage of the second phase, dating to 6500-7000 BP, consists of ash-pits, semi-subterranean houses, pottery and stone tools. The main type of ceramic vessels include the round-bottom fu vessel, the vessel-seat, the bo bowl with red painted belt surrounding its mouth and small-mouth-double-handles pot. Assemblage of the first phase at Beifudi is extremely important for the study of early Neolithic cultures east of the Taihang Mountains and their relationship with archaeological cultures, especially the Xinglongwa and Cishan cultures, to the south and north of the Yan Mountains. Besides, semi-subterranean houses, the ritual area and ceramic masks discovered at the site are important for a better understanding of early Neolithic cultures in north China.
The Zhuangqiaofen site of the Liangzhu culture in Pinghu City, Zhejiang
(Lectured by vice Professor Xu Xinmin, deputy director of the Zhejiang Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology)
The site, with an area of several hectares, is located at the Lindai Township, Pinghu City, Zhejiang Province. Nearly 2000 sq m of the site had been dug by a cooperative team of the Zhejiang Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology and the Pinghu City Museum from the June of 2003 to the October of 2004.
Three man-made earth platforms, more than 100 features including ditches, sacrificial pits and ash pits, together with a cemetery of the middle and late Liangzhu period were unearthed. The platforms were originally piled with spotted yellowish earth and had been continually enlarged afterwards. Ditches to the west and north of the middle platform might have been related to the construction of the platforms. The cemetery consists of 236 burials mostly orientating to the south or north, within which were found well-preserved human skeletons and nearly 2600 burial offerings including ceramic vessels and tools and ornaments made of stone, jade, bone, horn, ivory and wood. Sacrificial dogs were found in some of the burials. The burials clustered into four sub-groups each of which has its own characteristics. The sacrificial pits, some of which have skeletons of dogs and pigs, were found within the cemetery.
A wooden plough with stone blades was discovered in pit H70. It is by present the earliest example of a complete plough and can be regarded as a strong evidence of the developed agriculture in the Liangzhu period. Besides, remains of rice, stones and animal bones were also found. The cemetery by present is the largest Liangzhu cemetery ever found. Stratigraphic relationship between the burials is important for the periodization of the culture. In addition, the whole site provides us a good sample for the study of inner-settlement pattern and social structure of the Liangzhu culture.
New discoveries at the “First Capital of China” – Erlitou site, Yanshi, Henan
(Lectured by Professor Xu Hong from the IACASS)
With several excavations at the site from 2003 to 2004, the Erlitou Fieldwork Team of the IACASS again gave Chinese archaeologists a surprise. The new discoveries include the city wall of the palace city, roads, large rammed earth foundations, rammed walls, the workshop of turquoise manufacture, a turquoise-inlaid dragon-shaped object in an elite burial and ruts.
The walled palace city, which is the earliest in China, is in the shape of a rectangular and occupies an area of 10.8 ha. Outside the wall, there are four 10-20 m wide roads which had been continually used from the early to late Erlitou period. Nine large rammed earth foundations were found inside the wall. Some of them cluster into two groups each with an imaginary central axis. This central-axis-style is the forerunner of later capital city planning in historical time.
The ruts found on the road south to the palace city indicate that double-wheel chariot might have emerged as early as in the early Erlitou period. Large rammed earth foundations and the workshop of turquoise manufacture dating to the fourth phase of the Erlitou culture challenge the argument that the culture declined after its third phase.
The storehouse of the Western Han Dynasty at the Qianhe Dock, Fengxiang
(Lectured by vice Professor Tian Yaqi from the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology)
The Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, the Baoji City Team of Archaeology and the Fengxiang Museum had unearthed a storehouse-like architecture beside the Qianhe Dock, Changqing, Fengxiang, Shaanxi Province during their cooperative excavations from the October 2003 to September 2004. The 7000 sq m large site is covered by a thick layer of tiles. Walls, ventiducts, doors, stone plinths found under the layer indicate the existence of a storehouse with three parts. Eighteen ventiducts were discovered around the moistureproof walls established above their rammed earth foundations. The 602 small stone plinths range in order on the rammed-earth floor within the walls. They might have functioned to set low posts to support boards to form a wooden floor for storage. High posts might have been set on the large stone plinths to support the roof.
Different types of tiles and tile-ends, together with some coins, tools and arrowheads were also discovered. Dating to the Western Han Dynasty, the storehouse might be the “Baiwandancang” recorded in ancient texts which was build for both economic and military purposes. In addition to provides us a valuable sample for the study of architectural techniques in the Western Han period, the storehouse is also important for a better understanding of political, economic and military environment as well as the water transportation system at that time.
The Taiye lake of the Daminggong Palace in the Tang capital city Chang’an
(Lectured by vice Professor Gong Guoqiang from the IACASS)
Located at the northeast of the Tang capital city Chang’an, the Daminggong Palace had been the administration center of interior and foreign affairs of the Tang Dynasty for more than 270 years. Within the Palace, there is a fairyland-like royal garden with Taiye lake as the center. With a special permission of the State Council and the National Administrative Bureau of Cultural Relics, a Sino-Japan cooperative archaeological team of IACASS and Nara Institute of Cultural Relics has launched several excavations at the west, north and south banks around and a small island in the lake from 2001.
Nearby the banks and on the newly found small island, were found the remains of a long corridor, water-side architectures, a brick-paved small pool, rockeries, stone piles, pebble-paved decharges, a flat bridge and a serpentine ditch (qushui). A large yard with corridors, together with the foundation of a hall, were discovered on a highland south to the lake. They shed light on the overall arrangement in the area along the imaginary central axis of the Daminggong Palace and between the pool and three southern halls of the palace. Besides, large amount of fine artifacts, some of which might have been for royal usage, were also unearthed. These discoveries have provided a more detailed picture of the royal garden lack in the record of ancient texts, and hence are important for the study on ancient capital cities as well as ancient gardens.
Kilns of the Ming Dynasty in the Jingdezheng City, Jiangxi
(Lectured by Professor Quan Kuishan from the Faculty of Archaeology and Museology, Beijing University)
Several royal kilns of the Ming Dynasty together with a large number of royal porcelain utensils were unearthed in an excavation conducted by a cooperative archaeological team of the Faculty of Archaeology and Museum of Beijing University, the Jiangxi Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology and the Jingdezheng City Institute of Porcelain Archaeology in the autumn and winter of 2004.
These brick-made kilns are in the shapes of the gourd or the steamed bread. The gourd-shaped ones can be dated from the Hongwu reign to the Yongle reign of the Ming Dynasty, while the steam-bread-shaped ones from the Xuande reign to the Wanli reign. The kilns are large in size, regular in shape, scientific in structure and ranges in order. They clearly indicate the blossom of the royal porcelain yard. Most of the porcelain fragments unearthed can be dated to the Yongle and Xuande reigns. They are red-glazed, blue-glazed, white-glazed, ge-glazed, blue-white-glazed or green glazed.
Main recognizable vessel types include the urn, the large pot, the plum vase, the pear-shaped pot, the shallow bowl, the bowl, the plate, the box, the dish for colors mixing, the furnace and the jue cap. Many of them are newly found types. Some are even the only samples ever found. These abundant new discoveries are significant for a more comprehensive study on royal porcelain manufacture in the Ming Dynasty.
New achievements in botanic archaeology in China
(Lectured by Professor Zhao Zhijun form the IACASS)
Thanks to the popularization of the flotation method, Chinese archaeologists now have more evidence to answer some essential questions on the origin and development of agriculture in prehistoric China. The latest results of flotation indicate the existence of a pre-agriculture crop domestication period between 9000-8000 BP, the research on which is crucial for the interpretation of the emergence of agriculture in China. Evidence from the Jiahu site in Wuyang and the Xinglonggou site in Chifeng demonstrates that though rice and millet & broomcorn domestication might have emerged respectively in south and north China during 9000-8000 BP, hunting and gathering still played a principal role in subsistence economy. Flotation results also prove that there was no rice agriculture at the Zengpiyan stie in Guilin. This raises the possibility of a “three-routes” model for the origin of agriculture in China. According to the new model, dry agriculture, rice agriculture and rootstock crop agriculture might have independently emerged in the northern China, the Yangze River Valley and the southern China. In addition, flotation of soil samples from a series of site of the Longshan, Xia, Shang and Zhou periods shows that rice and wheat farming had been introduced to the Middle and Lower Yellow River Valley from about 4000 BP. An intensive study on the transition from millet agriculture to multi-crops agriculture might be a new perspective for the interpretation on the dyne and process of the formation of Chinese civilization.