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Henan Records New Discoveries in Big Relic Sites

Chinese archeologists, attending the fourth convention sponsored by Henan Archeologist Association, has summed up and unveiled some important new discoveries in recent years, which they found in four big relic sites in this history-laden central Chinese province.

Dr. Xu Hong, head of the Erlitou Archaeological Team under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said new important cultural relics have been continuing to show up in the Erlitou site in Yanshi county, some 100 kilometers west of Zhengzhou, Henan's capital city.

Xu said the outstanding discoveries in the site in recent years were four intercrossing roads around the palace complex, two-phase rammed-earth foundations in this complex, and the enclosing walls of the complex. Of no less significance are groups of elite burials, wheel imprints, rammed-earth walls, and workshops for making turquoise artifacts, according to Xu.

Xu said that new discoveries testify that the palace complex found here was the earliest of its kind ever discovered in China.

Inside the palace complex were found, for the first time, rows of elite burials, such as cinnabar powder, coffins, bronze artifacts, and turquoise artifacts. Of acute scientific and artistic interest was a dragon-shaped object coated with turquoise flakes, said Xu.

The wheel imprints discovered on the southern road of the palace complex are also the earliest in China, according to Xu.

Discovered in 1959, Erlitou is the largest site associated with Erlitou culture (1900-1500 BC) on a land of three square km. The culture was widely spread throughout Henan and Shanxi provinces, and later appeared in Shaanxi and Hubei provinces.

Most Chinese archaeologists identify the Erlitou culture as the site of the later period of the Xia Dynasty (2100-1600 BC), while western archaeologists remain unconvinced of the connection between Erlitou culture and the Xia Dynasty.

In another site, Zhao Qingqing, member of the Xinzhai Archaeological Team under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said a large-scale shallow-hole-like building was found in the center of the Xinzhai Site in Xinmi county, some 50 kilometers south of downtown Zhengzhou.

Zhao said the building, which Chinese archeologists previously called a large building without knowing how it was used, was believed to be an outdoor hole-like place often used by primitive dwellers for public activities, particularly for big sacrificial ceremonies.

The building was so far the biggest of its kind in the same period discovered in China, which Zhao said was of great significance in exploring building landscape in the site, judging the character of the site and studying the origin of the Chinese civilization.

The third was the Neolithic Xipo Site in Lingbao county, some 380 kilometers west of Zhengzhou.

Ma Xiaolin, member of the Xipo Archaeological Team under Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, said after the discovery of two surprisingly large semi-subterranean houses, they found a cemetery in the site in July this year.

Within the cemetery were discovered 22 burials of the middle Yangshao Culture (around 5500 BC) with abundant burial offerings including jade, stone, bone objects and pottery. Ma said that although similar in structure, the 22 burials were different in both size and burial offerings.

The cemetery, said Ma, was set to provide archeologists with rare materials to study the burial custom and social system of the middle Yangshao Culture.

Ma said though middle Yangshao culture was famous for its painted pottery, no cemetery of that period has ever been found, and social structure of the owners of the fine pottery remained a secret to Chinese archaeologists.

Ma said thanks to the fieldwork at Xipo, archaeologists now could have a better understanding of the development of social complexity during that period. Many archeologists suggest that the period could be regarded as a starting point of the origin of the Chinese civilization, according to Ma.

The last was the Lingjing Paleolithic Site, in Xuchang city, some 200 kilometers south of Zhengzhou.

Li Zhanyang, member of the Lingjing Archaeological Team under Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, said it was the first for Chinese archeologists to excavate the site found some 40 years ago.

Li said the excavation had found more than 2,000 pieces of stone and bone objects, including 15 ground stone and bone objects. Also during the excavation was found, for the first time, a ground carving object at the Old Stone Age, according to Li.

Li said the Lingjing Site, with fountains as its center and featuring lakes and wetland, was the first site ever found in China at the Old Stone Age.

Li predicted the site could become a key source of material for Chinese archeologists to study major scientific subjects since it was one of the relic sites boasting the amplest cultural relics and information.

(Xinhua News Agency October 18, 2005)

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