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Xinzhai Ruins Confirmed as Xia Dynasty City

Two years of archaeological research at the Xinzhai Ruins of Xinmi City, in central China's Henan Province, has borne fruit. Scientists have basically confirmed this was a large city with three moats and grand buildings in the early part of the Xia Dynasty (c.2100 BC - c.1600 BC). It is the first time that a walled city dating from the Xia Dynasty has been found, providing new materials for research on the period.


Researcher Zhao Chunqing of the Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, is in charge of the dig. He says that the city at the Xinzhai Ruins was a typical community of the later period of primitive society and that it served as a link between the Longshan and Xia Dynasty cultures.


The city covered a total area of 1 million square meters, with three layers of defense works: the outer moat, city wall and inner moat. The central part was lined with large buildings. The east and north city walls were built against a natural gully using fill and rammed earth, while the river running outside the west wall was manmade. About 220 meters beyond the north city wall was a natural ditch. Enhanced by manpower, it became the outer moat, extending 1,500 meters from east to west. It was 6 to 14 meters wide and 3 to 4 meters deep. Only the west, north and east sides of the inner moat, which once encircled the city, still exist.


In the central part of the city, archaeologists found a large building foundation, over 50 meters from east to west and 14.5 meters from north to south. Sections of rammed-earth walls, pillar holes and baked earth were excavated. Other articles found include bronze utensil fragments, a vessel lid with designs similar to those on the bronze plates of the Erlitou culture and the foot of an earthen utensil bearing patterns resembling dragons. The quality and style of the artifacts indicate that aristocrats once inhabited the building.


Last year, Chinese archaeologists found a large building foundation in the Erlitou Ruins at Yanshi, also in Henan Province, which they have dated to the latter part of the Xia Dynasty.


Since the discovery of Xinzhai, archaeologists have unearthed another Xia city site at Dashigu, a suburb of Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan. Because of its strategic location, archaeologists believe that it may have been a garrison city or capital of a subordinate kingdom of the Xia Dynasty.


The excavation of the Xinzhai ruins is an important component of the Preliminary Studies for Tracing the Source of Ancient Chinese Civilization, a key scientific project of the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001 - 2005).


The project focuses on 11 topics pertaining to the source, formation and early development of Chinese civilization. One of them is research on social structure as reflected by the settlement of western Henan Province and southern Shanxi Province from the period of the Longshan culture to the early Xia Dynasty. Archaeologists working on this segment of the project are studying the Guchengzhai ruins and Xinzhai ruins of Xinmi City and the Wangchenggang ruins of Dengfeng City, all in Henan Province; and the Taosi ruins of Shanxi Province.


(China.org.cn by Li Jinhui, March 29, 2004)

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