China Archaeology in the 1970’s and 1980’s

Archeology has led to further discoveries in China over the last decade. Excavations conducted in Shi-hui-pa, Yunnan province, unearthed the remains of a ramapithecus skull in 1980., a monkey that would have lived 6 million years ago. The oldest finds from the early Neolithic were made in He-mu-du, in the province of Zhejiang, where, between 1977 and 1978, the remains of a culture dating back to 7,000 years ago appeared. Some thousands of artifacts have been discovered on a site where there was a prehistoric village of wooden houses near a lake: among the objects found, gray and black terracotta, with engraved figures of animals or plants; carved bones and wooden objects; hoes made from animal bones; remains of plants (rice, pumpkins, melons) and of animals (dogs, pigs, buffaloes, turtles, deer). The dating to the 5th millennium BC has been provided by radiocarbon examinations. In 1978, a one-piece hardwood oar was unearthed at the same site as He-mudu. which has the same shape of the oars still used today in the southern China, but not made of a single block; it presents a decoration with horizontal and diagonal lines. The find traces the history of navigation in China to about 7000 years ago, as demonstrated by carbon 14.

Excavations continued in the territory of Zhong-shan, southwest of Beijing, in the province of Hebei, in the great plain of the Yellow River. The reign of Zhong-shan extended in this area at the time of the so-called “Warring States” period (475-221 BC). Between 1974 and 1978 about thirty tombs were opened, remains of walls and buildings unearthed, more than 19,000 artifacts brought to light.

In the royal tombs there are many bronze objects: among them, large insignia in the shape of the shan (mountain) character, sacrificial vessels, bottles, weapons, a bronze plan of the royal mausoleums, an ax bearing an inscription that reads: “the country was founded by the Son of Heaven, Duke of Zhong-shan “. Some bronzes depicting real or fantastic animals (tigers, cattle, rhinos, chimeras) have gold and silver encrustations. Out of more than 2000 bronze finds, about a hundred have inscriptions, which can reach up to 450 characters. The discovery of this site made it possible to reconstruct and control the history of a feudal state that was known only through literary documentation.

Also in 1978 a tomb from the first period of the “Warring States” was opened in Lei-ku-dun, in the province of Hubei. It must have belonged to a very rich feudal lord; twenty-three were the coffins containing the remains of people buried after being sacrificed to accompany the feudal lord to the afterlife; the smaller coffin contained the remains of a dog.

In the rich funerary equipment, 124 musical instruments of eight different types are worth mentioning, including bells and sound stones; many bronze objects which, together with musical instruments, have made it possible to clarify some problems relating to the ceremonies and music of the ” Warring States ” period. One of the chambers of this tomb was defined as an arsenal by Chinese archaeologists, as it contained thousands of daggers, spears, halberds, shields, armor: only the bronze arrowheads found there were more than 3000. But the funerary equipment was rich. also of jade objects for ceremonial uses, in wood and in lacquer. Of some interest a large number of bamboo strips, on which there are inscriptions listing the number of objects buried.

Further discoveries occurred near Xi’an, where in 1974 the army of warriors and horses guarding the tomb of the First August Emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi (221-207 BC), was unearthed. In 1980 two other groups of finds were found: bronze war chariots, with horses and charioteers also of the same material; each group consists of a chariot, a charioteer and four horses. The latter have gold, silver and copper ornaments on their heads. In 1979, on some mountains of the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia, several hundreds of rock graffiti were found depicting animals, scenes of war and migrations, religious images; Chinese archaeologists believe that they have been engraved with metal points and date them from the remote Bronze Age to the last centuries.

According to RECIPESINTHEBOX, Chinese archeology, encouraged by the political class, is today, both for the excavation techniques and for the conservation of the finds, at a good level, as it has appeared in numerous exhibitions held in Europe, the United States and Japan in recent years. Excavation reports are regularly published by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Institute of Archeology, or by local institutions.

China Archaeology in the 1970's and 1980's