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Chifeng International Collaborative Archaeological Research Project
From:Chinese Archaeology  Writer:  Date:2012-02-03

 

For many decades Chinese archaeologists have been interested in the ancient peoples who lived along and beyond the Great Wall in a region called the beifang, or Northern Corridor. They were described by ancient Chinese historians as living in ways different from the agricultural lifeways of dynastic China of the second and first millennia BCE. These written reports and excavated cemeteries across the region suggest that agro-pastoralism and/or nomadic lifeways emerged in the beifang, but and why that happened has not been studied using systematic archeological field methods. That change in lifeway has been marked by archaeologists by noting the difference in material culture during the period. The earlier materials were characterized by specialized painted pottery, by use of carved jades for ritual implements and by utilitarian and decorative items made of metal. The later period tombs have yielded greatly increased amounts of portable metal artifacts, especially weapons and personal ornaments.
Until very recently little contextual information was collected beyond that of the immediate find-spot. The change in lifeway and thereby in material culture cannot be understood with the currently available data recovered almost exclusively from burial remains. Different kinds of information, for example on regional social and political organization, on ecology, climate, trade, and other types of interaction are needed. Our goal is to put into regional context the relevant archaeological materials already accumulated from burials and caches and, by using regional survey methods followed by test excavations, to systematically investigate the emergence of pastoralism in our targeted area near Chifeng, Inner Mongolia. This sort of analysis has not been attempted before in the Northern Corridor.

The Chifeng Collaborative Archaeological Research Project (CICARP) is a cooperative project among the University of Pittsburgh (USA), The Hebrew University (Israel), Jilin University (PRC) and the Inner Mongolia Institute of Archaeological Research (PRC). It was initiated with a seminar and planning season held in the summer of 1998 followed by two full field seasons in 1999 and 2000. Initial base funding was provided by a Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation grant in 1997, and has just been extended by them to support the years 2001-2003. So far we have surveyed an area of about 550 square km and have located over 836 sites, most not known previously. The region projected for survey will require an estimate of three more field seasons.
Our main objective is to address the process of socio-political change in northeast China. The issues we address are pertinent to a better understanding of regional history--China and her northern neighbors--but are also relevant to the general understanding of socio-political processes worldwide. Such issues include the identification of different trajectories of social complexity and different types of complex societies, sources of political power and legitimization, interregional interaction and its effect on local developments as well as the causes and effects of economic change.

In order to further understand and explain the changes in social patterns in this area, we will continue the full-coverage survey as well as begin test excavation and refined mapping of selected sites. All records are made in both Chinese and English, and the data is stored on laptop computers and kept in Hohhot (Institute of Archaeology, (Zhang Wenping); the Department of Archaeology, Jilin University (Teng Mingyu); The Hebrew University (Shelach); and the University of Pittsburgh (Drennan and Linduff). Computer technology used to store and manipulate all the data as well as to create these maps was introduced by the US team and was quickly absorbed.


The new methods of study were eagerly tested by the Chinese members of the team while their expertise in regional topography, ceramic analysis and previous excavation results was provided has been fundamental to the progress of the project to date. Preliminary results of the survey have being drafted and will be published in both Chinese and English.

 
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