KUAHUQIAO AND SHANGSHAN: THE OLDEST LOWER YANGTZE CULTURES AND THE SOURCE OF THE WORLD’S FIRST DOMESTICATED RICE

KUAHUQIAO SITE (8000-7000 B.C.)


The Kuahuqiao site was situated a few hundred kilometers from present-day Shanghai on the lower Yangtze River and occupied approximately from 8000 to 7000 B.C.Leping Jiang wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “The Kuahuqiao culture is located in Zhejiang, a southeastern coastal province of China. The Qiantang river is the largest watercourse in the province, and it flows into Hangzhou Bay after crossing the whole province. North of this bay is the Hanjiahu Plain, where the famous Majiabang culture is located, and to the south is the Ningshao Plain, the distribution area of the celebrated Hemudu culture. The Kuahuqiao site, after which the Kuahuqiao culture is named, is very close to the place where the Qiantang river enters Hangzhou Bay. In other words, the Kuahuqiao site is located at the western end of a large plain in the lower Qiantang river valley. To the west of the site is an upland area. The site is 5–6 meters underneath the current surface, below the water table. [Source: “The Kuahuqiao Site and Culture” by Leping Jiang, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, Edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

“The Kuahuqiao culture was discovered after the famous Hemudu culture (c. 7000– 5000 BP) (c. 5050–3050 B.C.) was identified. Radiocarbon (C-14) dates show that occupation of the Kuahuqiao site was no earlier than 8000 BP and no later than 7000BP (c. 6050–5050 B.C.). So far, five sites of this culture have been discovered: Kuahuqiao, Xiasun, Shangshan, Xiaohuangshan, and Qingdui. These sites are situated from the upper to the lower Qiantang river valley (Jiang 2010). ~|~

“After people moved from the land area in the upper Qiantang river valley to the plain in the lower valley, the Kuahuqiao culture flourished. Later it struggled for survival in the face of major transformation of the hydrological environment around 7000 BP (c. 5050 B.C.). Did it decline rapidly? Or, did the Kuahuqiao people move back to the upland area? These questions cannot be answered now because very few sites have been discovered or excavated in the upper Qiantang river valley. Nevertheless, in the plain in the lower valley, another archaeological culture – the Hemudu culture – rose swiftly.

See See Separate Article HEMUDU, MAJIABANG AND LIANGZHU: CHINA’S LOWER YANGTZE NEOLITHIC CULTURES

Good Websites and Sources: Yangshao Culture Wikipedia ; Banpo site China Museums ; Liukeng Village China Vista ; Ancient TombsUniversity of Washington ; Ancient Rice National Geographic.com ; Website on Rice Cultivation in China: Ancient Chinese Rice Archeological Project, Carleton University carleton.ca/~bgordon/Rice ]

Good Websites and Sources on Early Chinese History: 1) Ancient China Life ancientchinalife.com ; 2) Ancient China for School Kids elibrary.sd71.bc.ca/subject_resources ; 3) Oriental Style ourorient.com ; 4) Chinese Text Project ctext.org ; Books: Cambridge History of Ancient China edited by Michael Loewe and Edward Shaughnessy (1999, Cambridge University Press); The Culture and Civilization of China, a massive, multi-volume series, (Yale University Press); Mysteries of Ancient China: New Discoveries from the Early Dynasties by Jessica Rawson (British Museum, 1996)

Good Chinese History Websites: 1) Chaos Group of University of Maryland chaos.umd.edu/history/toc ; 2) WWW VL: History China vlib.iue.it/history/asia ; 3) Wikipedia article on the History of China Wikipedia 4) China Knowledge; 5) Gutenberg.org e-book gutenberg.org/files ; Links in this Website: Main China Page factsanddetails.com/china (Click History)

Shangshan

Leping Jiang wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “Situated about 50 meters above sea level, the Shangshan site is located in Qunan village, part of Huangzhai town in Pujiang county. It is located on the upper Puyangjiang river, a major tributary of the Qiantang river. The site was excavated in 2000, 2001, and from 2004 to 2006. It is around 3 hectares in size. Underneath the Kuahuqiao culture occupation layer at Shangshan is a layer from an even earlier cultural period called the Shangshan culture. [Source: “The Kuahuqiao Site and Culture” by Leping Jiang, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, Edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

“The Xiaohuangshan site is located in Shangdushan village, Ganlin town, Shangzhou city. It is situated in the upper Caoejiang river valley, another major tributary of theQiantang river. It is more than 40 meters above sea level. The site was discovered in 2005 and excavated during the same year. It occupied an area of around 10 hectares and also suffered serious damage from villagers digging for clay. As at the Shangshan site, the Kuahuqiao cultural layer at Xiaohuangshan overlays deposits from the earlier Shangshan culture. ~|~

“The Qingdui site, lying around 50 meters above sea level, is situated in Sihou village in Longyou county, upper Qiantang river valley. It was discovered and test-excavated in 2010. The site is more than 3 hectares in size, with the Kuahuqiao cultural layer superimposed upon a Shangshan cultural layer. Sporadic findings of materials related to the Kuahuqiao culture have been reported from other locations in the general area as well. ~|~

“Since Kuahuqiao culture deposits are directly superimposed on Shangshan culture layers at three sites, the Shangshan culture must be an important source of the Kuahuqiao culture. Since the Shangshan culture is mainly distributed in the upper Qiantang river valley and some Kuahuqiao culture sites extend to the lower valley, it seems that Neolithic cultures gradually shifted from the upper to the lower Qiantang river valley. The core areas for the later Hemudu, Majiabang, Songze, and Liangzhu cultures are all located further down in the plain in the lower river valley.” ~|~

Archaeology at the Kuahuqiao Site


Leping Jiang wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “The specific location of the Kuahuqiao site is Xianghu village in the Xiaoshan district of Hangzhou city. After being discovered in 1990, it was excavated the same year and again in 2001 and 2002. The site is more than 10 hectares in size, but it suffered severe damage from villagers digging for clay to make bricks. This greatly reduced the intact areas of the site. The Xiasun site is situated less than 2 kilometers northeast of Kuahuqiao and at the same height above sea level. It was discovered in 2003 and excavated the same year. It was also greatly damaged by villagers digging clay for bricks. The total area of the site is not clear. [Source: “The Kuahuqiao Site and Culture” by Leping Jiang, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, Edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

“The most important data for the Kuahuqiao culture published so far come from the sites of Kuahuqiao and Xiasun (Zhejiang and Xiaoshan 2004), of which the former site contributes much more significantly to our knowledge. Therefore, the discussion below focuses primarily on remains from the Kuahuqiao site. Although the site was severely damaged, its location below the water table resulted in excellent preservation of many organic artifacts made from wood and bone, faunal remains, and plant remains, providing exceptional data for research on the Kuahuqiao culture.” ~|~

“The first excavation of the Kuahuqiao site in 1990 revealed a cultural type previously unknown to archaeologists. Results from radiocarbon dating suggest that the site was already occupied around 8000 BP (c. 6050 B.C.), surprisingly earlier than the Hemudu site. It was even more striking that the ceramic vessels unearthed from the site were more refined than those from the later Hemudu culture. Therefore, archaeologists were suspicious of the earlier date for the Kuahuqiao site, and the excavation was not renewed for 10 years. It was not until 2000 that archaeologists once again paid attention to the site. Only after the second and third excavations (2001–2002) was the Kuahuqiao site properly appreciated among archaeologists. The radiocarbon dates from acorn, charcoal, wood, and other samples prove that the site was occupied from c. 8000 to 7000 BP (c. 6050–7050 B.C.). The Kuahuqiao culture was officially recognized and named as such after the Xiasun site was discovered in 2003. ~|~

“The early cultural period for the site was doubted for two reasons. First, as a single component site, Kuahuqiao could not provide information about the chronological relationship between the Kuahuqiao culture and other Neolithic cultures in the area. Archaeologists in China traditionally rely on cultural stratigraphy as indispensable evidence for relative dating. Second, the Kuahuqiao ceramic vessels have peculiar shapes, and they could not be easily incorporated into the existing system of regional ceramic typology and seriation established on the basis of stylistic variation of artifacts from Hemudu, Majiabang, Songze, and Liangzhu culture sites in the area. ~|~

“The puzzle of Kuahuqiao ’s relationship with other cultures was not solved until the discovery of the Shangshan and Xiaohuangshan sites. These two sites reveal an earlier occupation from the Shangshan culture, dated to no later than 8500 BP (c. 6550 B.C.), with a Kuahuqiao culture layer directly superimposed upon it. More importantly, at the Shangshan site, the stratum of Kuahuqiao culture remains is sandwiched between the layers from the Shangshan and Hemudu cultures. Archaeologists then had conclusive evidence that the dating of the Kuahuqiao site was correct.” ~|~

Kuahuqiao Settlements

Leping Jiang wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”:“Since only two sites from the Kuahuqiao culture have been systematically excavated so far – Kuahuqiao and Xiasun – it is not yet possible to conduct a regional analysis of the sites. It appears that the Kuahuqiao culture represents a transitional stage through which ancient upland peoples resettled in the plain along the coast.” [Source: “The Kuahuqiao Site and Culture” by Leping Jiang, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, Edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

Both the Kuahuqiao and Xiasun sites “are located in an area near an ancient lake called Xiang. The ancient Xiang lake is situated between two mountains running from the northeast to the southwest. A valley around 5 kilometers in length was formed between these two mountains. The Kuahuqiao site is situated in a narrow part of the valley. According to local villagers, there were other sites in the valley which unfortunately were destroyed by people digging for clay at various times. Since the Xiasun site was discovered only 1.5 kilometers north of the Kuahuqiao site and villagers have identified destroyed sites in the area, it seems there was originally a group of sites distributed in a belt covering an area around 2 kilometers in length. ~|~

“The ceramic production areas at the Xiasun site suggest it was a locus for a restricted economic activity, rather than a village like Kuahuqiao. It seems it was a functional division of areas for certain activities among the communities at the time. In contrast to the location of late Neolithic sites in the Qiantang river valley, the Kuahuqiao settlements were not located on hillsides. Therefore the sea level may have been lower around 8000–7000 BP (c. 6050–5050 B.C.), with a quite different hydrological environment. ~|~

“A lake or river often constitutes one of the boundaries of a Neolithic village. Excavations show that the Kuahuqiao site was bordered by water in the southeast, and the remains of garbage – mostly ceramic sherds, from which we can often reconstruct complete vessels, and animal bones – are particularly rich in the southeastern edge of the ancient village. Kuahuqiao residents must have habitually dumped garbage in this area peripheral to water, as inhabitants of agricultural villages south of the Yangzi river still often do. ~|~

“The southeastern border of the Kuahuqiao site remained peripheral to the water in the earlier periods, but in the late period the site expanded quite a lot to the southeast. One reason was a drop in water level. Another important reason might be that the accumulated garbage invaded the lake, forcing it to gradually recede. As a rough estimation, the settlement expanded around 30–50 meters to the southeast from the early to the late period.” ~|~

Kuahuqiao Dwellings


Leping Jiang wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “Two types of architecture, utilizing wood and earth mixed with wood, were identified at the Kuahuqiao site. The major example of wood architecture is structure F2. The wooden architecture involved a square or rectangular room encircled by preserved posts as well as postholes. The bases of the posts were buried in small pits or simply inserted into the earth. Although F2 was partially damaged, it seems that it was a rectangular house on a south–north axis. Compared with the wooden architecture at the Hemudu site, there were fewer remains of rabbet joints ( sunmao goujian, mortise-and-tenon construction) at Kuahuqiao. It is also likely that pile-dwellings (houses raised on stilts, ganlan jianzhu) were already in use. One line of evidence for this conclusion is the discovery of the remains of a ladder fashioned out of the cleaved half of a pine trunk. [Source: “The Kuahuqiao Site and Culture” by Leping Jiang, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, Edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

The ladder is 15 centimeters in diameter, and the preserved length is 52 cm. Three steps, spaced 21–24 centimeters apart, were formed by gouging the front of the trunk. This style of ladder or staircase made from a tree trunk with no handrail allowed people to ascend to a loft step by step. The ladders would be placed against the interior or exterior walls of houses and used as needed. Similar ladders made from a single tree trunk are still used in southwest China by the Dong.. ethnic minority group and by Tibetan peoples. Therefore, buildings with one or more raised floors ( loushi jianzhu) would have existed, perhaps similar to the houses on stilts discovered at the Hemudu site. ~|~

“Structure F4 provides the best example of the wattle-and-daub architectural style (earth mixed with wood, tumuhunhe jianzhu ). Only the southern corner of the structure survived. The preserved walls are around 30–40 centimeters high and about 35 centimeters wide. Human-worked wooden stakes, from 13 to 64 centimeters long, were buried about 30 centimeters apart in the walls. The bottom parts of the stakes show clear evidence of chopping and cutting. ~|~

“In southern China, ancient earthen roads are rarely identifiable from other features, especially for sites buried below the water table. We were fortunate to find quite refined roads built with stone cobbles at the Kuahuqiao site. One can still encounter similar cobble roads between villages south of the Yangzi river. According to local villagers, there was once a 30 meters long cobble road in the western part of the Kuahuqiao site. The part closest to the hill was destroyed. During excavation, we discovered remnants of several cobble roads, the largest of which was 6.5 meters long and 0.7–2.0 meters wide. ~|~

“The extended line of the remains of one cobble road points toward what my team has identified as architectural feature B, an earthen platform around 1.6 meters high. The platform consists of several layers which all display evidence of burnt earth. This earthen platform was used throughout the entire occupation of the site. It appears to be a very important feature in the settlement, because the cobble road led to it. I believe that this platform functioned as an area for making sacrificial offerings and discuss this issue further below.” ~|~

Kuahuqiao Food

Leping Jiang wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “The Kuahuqiao people developed a rich array of economic strategies, primarily collecting, rice cultivation, fishing, and hunting. There were rich deposits of organic remains from wild plants at the Kuahuqiao site. At several locations a large quantity of seeds of Fagasceae (different species of oak) were encountered. During the excavations we collected botanical remains – notably many seeds of cultivated rice and wild fruits such as jujube and peach – through the method of flotation from a few units. [Source: “The Kuahuqiao Site and Culture” by Leping Jiang, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, Edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

“This demonstrated that the Kuahuqiao people did not solely practice rice cultivation; collecting also played an important role in their subsistence strategies. According to the botanical remains we recovered, the main wild plant sources used by the Kuahuqiao people belonged to the following floral families: Rosaceae (peach, plum, apricot), Anacardiaceae (cashew family, includes other nuts and fruits such as mangos), Trapaceae (water chestnut), and Nymphaeaceae (aquatic plants including water lily). ~|~

“Besides the fruits and seeds of the subtropical and tropical plants listed above, we also discovered remains of the Leguminosae family (including beans and peas) and the Cucurbitaceae family (including squashes, gourds, melons). We still need to determine the genus and species of these plants, as well as their roles in the economic life of the Kuahuqiao people. ~|~

“Two observations can be made about these kinds of collected fruits and seeds. First, they have been collected as food by human beings for a long time, at least until the early modern period. Second, these fruits and seeds can be divided into two main groups. The first type is plants such as fruits (peach, plum, etc.) that cannot be preserved for future consumption. The second type is plants that are highly farinaceous (i.e. high in starch) such as nuts and the seeds of plants. Examples of this type include acorns and water chestnuts. People can preserve these plant foods for future consumption. ~|~

“Acorns, nuts produced on plants of the Quercus genus, are still collected by local people today. The remains of acorns have been found on grinding stones from the earlier Shangshan culture deposits at the Shangshan and Xiaohuangshan sites, indicating that acorns were consumed as sources of starch at an early period. Because acorns had to be soaked in water to get rid of the astringent taste of tannic acid, they were often placed in pits that could also be used for storage. Many pits like this were discovered at Kuahuqiao as well as sites such as Hemudu and Beilun Shaxi. ~|~

“In the 300 square meters excavation area alone at Kuahuqiao in 1990, we found around 20 acorn storage pits. People often built wooden chambers in these pits, or they placed wooden boards and reed mats at the bottom of the pits. Pit H17 serves as a good example. It is bag-shaped in profile and about 50 centimeters deep. It is roughly square in plan view, measuring around 65 centimeters per side. The base is approximately 70 centimeters per side. Visible from the opening was a grid-shaped wooden framework about 30 centimeters wide with two intersecting and interposed layers consisting of wood strips. Many acorns were discovered in the pit.” ~|~

Kuahuqiao Meat and Animals


Shang dynasty rhino

Leping Jiang wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “From the 700 square meters area excavated at Kuahuqiao during 2001 and 2002, we discovered more than six thousand pieces of animal bones. These include: different species of fish, turtles, Yangzi alligator ( Alligator sinensis), greater spotted eagle ( Aquila clanga), and other species of birds (swan, duck, crane, goose, plover, hawk). [Source: “The Kuahuqiao Site and Culture” by Leping Jiang, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, Edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

“We also found remains of animals such as the raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides), domesticated dog and pig, and several kinds of large wild animals including, tigers, the leopard cat ( Prionailurus bengalensis), rhinoceros, wild boar, sika deer ( Cervus nippon), and the Sumatran serow ( Capricornis sumatraensis). Our research indicates that most of these bones belonged to animals hunted by the Kuahuqiao people and were discarded after consumption. We were able to identify patterns of human activities from water buffalo bones such as butchering and cooking. ~|~

“First, black areas produced by burning were extensively observed on limb bones, ribs, and mandibles showing that meat was roasted before consumption. Second, shoulder bones and other large limb bones were usually broken close to the joint, indicating the consumption of marrow. The animal bones at Kuahuqiao tend to be large in size in comparison to bones, for example, from the later site of Huizui in Henan province, where they were smashed to small pieces.. IA,CASS 2011). ~|~

“This suggests that the natural environment around Kuahuqiao provided abundant animals for hunting, since people did not need to use laborious methods to extract meat. We also observed traces of chopping and cutting on various parts of the bones, some of which could only have been made with a great deal of strength. It is also possible that raw meat was cut into pieces before it was roasted. ~|~

“Domesticated pigs discovered at Kuahuqiao may represent the earliest domesticated pig in southern China. When pigs were domesticated, changes in diet and food composition led to morphological transformations such as shortened jaw bones and weakened teeth. Teeth are relatively more resistant to change than other bones but preserve more inherited information. Pig teeth from all phases of occupation at Kuahuqiao demonstrate a gradual shortening of the teeth, a pattern indicative of domestication. ~|~

“Moreover, there is a clear pattern towards the selection of younger animals for butchering, evident for all phases of occupation at the site. The pattern is even clearer over time. For the early phase, the average age of butchering is 4.6 years, for the middle phase it is 3.5, and for the late phase it is 2.9. It should be emphasized that although there is evidence for domestication of pigs at Kuahuqiao, this subsistence strategy was not a dominant one. Among the animal bones discovered, the proportion of domesticated pigs to other fauna was relatively high only for the early phase, with the figures dropping lower and lower for the later phases. I expect to collaborate with scholars from other disciplines in the future to address whether changing environmental conditions had an impact on subsistence practices at the Kuahuqiao settlement.” ~|~

Kuahuqiao and Rice


Ancient rice from the Tianloushan site

Leping Jiang wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “The remains of rice unearthed at Kuahuqiao is one of the most important discoveries of cultivated rice in the lower Yangzi river valley. The Kuahuqiao specimens are very valuable for tracing the origin and evolution of cultivated rice. From approximately a thousand remains of rice discovered through flotation, we identified 196 pieces of paddy rice (18.4 percent), 369 pieces of threshed rice (34.7 percent), and 498 pieces of rice husk (46.9 percent). The dimensions of the rice are informative about the process of domestication and the subspecies of rice grown by the people at Kuahuqiao. [Source: “The Kuahuqiao Site and Culture” by Leping Jiang, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, Edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

“The variation in length of the paddy rice is 4.99–8.65 mm, and the variation in width is 1.46–3.61 mm. Those samples longer than 7.10 mm constitute 40.1 percent of the sample. Current research indicates that common wild rice, the ancestor of cultivated rice, is 7.10–10 mm long and 1.90–3.40 mm wide. Compared with wild rice, then, most of the Kuahuqiao paddy rice is shorter, and more than 50 percent of the remains are clearly different from common wild rice. The variation in width of the Kuahuqiao paddy rice is greater than that of wild rice. Therefore, the rice from Kuahuqiao is distinguishable from wild rice, and thus it must be considered as domesticated (Zheng et al. 2004). ~|~

“Domesticated rice is different from wild rice with respect to the ratio of length to width. The average ratio of length to width of the Kuahuqiao paddy rice is 2.74, and for the threshed rice it is 2.61. Among varieties of modern cultivated rice, usually the ratio for Japonica rice is smaller than 2.30; for Indica rice it is 2.50–3.50. Rice that falls into the range 2.31–2.50 often is considered to be a middle type, but the ratio for typical wild rice is larger than 3.50. My colleagues and I conclude that among the remains of paddy rice and threshed rice grains recovered from Kuahuqiao, Indica rice constitutes 62.57 percent of the total, Japonica rice 16.82 percent, and the middle range type, 18.98 percent. The remaining (1.63 percent) should be considered wild rice. ~|~

“In order to obtain further information about the early rice at Kuahuqiao, we also analyzed rice phytoliths ( guisuanti). Detailed analyses of variation in phytolith shape shows that there is no apparent difference between the remains of phytoliths from the various deposits at Kuahuqiao. Also, the Kuahuqiao rice phytoliths belong to a relatively large class. In contrast to the pattern for the rice grains, the rice phytoliths from Kuahuqiao are very close to the phytoliths of modern cultivated Japonica rice. The abundant remains of rice unearthed at Kuahuqiao suggest that rice was already domesticated in the lower Yangzi river valley as early as 8000 BP (c. 6050 B.C.).” ~|~

10,000 Year Old Rice Remains from Found in Shangshan, China

The remains of cultivated rice dated to 10,000 years ago were discovered at the Shangshan site — in Qunan Village, Huangzhai township, Pujiang County near Jinhua city in Zhejiang Province, 330 kilometers southwest of Shanghai. This one of the oldest examples of agriculture. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

According to an article published in Nature Scientific Reports in June, 2016: “Rice husks contained in pottery matrices from the Shangshan site (ca. 10,000 BP) stimulated a heated debate on the origin of domesticated rice. The debate was triggered by a preliminary observation of grain length/width ratios hinting that the rice embedded in the Shangshan site pottery was an early domesticated type. Preserved organic matter, charred or otherwise preserved, has until now been rare at Shangshan culture sites, mainly appearing as inclusions in pottery matrices with few spikelet bases being evident. [Source: “Rice Domestication Revealed by Reduced Shattering of Archaeological rice from the Lower Yangtze valley” by Yunfei Zheng, Gary W. Crawford, Leping Jiang & Xugao Chen, Nature Scientific Reports, June 21, 2016 \*/]

“Plant remains dating to between 9000 and 8400?BP from a probable ditch structure at the Huxi site include the oldest rice (Oryza sativa) spikelet bases and associated plant remains recovered in China. The remains document an early stage of rice domestication and the ecological setting in which early cultivation was taking place. The rice spikelet bases from Huxi include wild (shattering), intermediate, and domesticated (non-shattering) forms. The relative frequency of intermediate and non-shattering spikelet bases indicates that selection for, at the very least, non-shattering rice was underway at Huxi. The rice also has characteristics of japonica rice (Oryza sativa subsp. japonica), helping to clarify the emergence of a significant lineage of the crop. Seeds, phytoliths and their context provide evidence of increasing anthropogenesis and cultivation during the occupation. Rice spikelet bases from Kuahuqiao (8000–7700?BP), Tianluoshan (7000–6500?BP), Majiabang (6300–6000?BP), and Liangzhu (5300–4300?BP) sites indicate that rice underwent continuing selection for reduced shattering and japonica rice characteristics, confirming a prolonged domestication process for rice.” \*/

Aileen Kawagoe wrote in the Heritage of Japan website: “From 2001 to 2004, the Cultural Relics Archaeological Research Institute of Zhejiang and the Pujiang County Museum carried out two archaeological excavations that covered an area of more than 700 square meters on the Shangshan site. The excavations unearthed a series of coal ceramic samples which were mostly red coal pottery that were in small quantity, of loose quality, like low-fire types and in simple shapes and forms. A small amount of polished stone adzes and stone axes were also discovered, of which the stone mill and grinding stick had many unique features, reflecting the economic mode of life that is closely associated with the earliest culture of grain cultivation. <^>

“The Wenbo Academy of Beijing University carried out tests on the samples. They discovered several traces of cultivated rice on the surface of the coal pottery as well as in the earth around the pottery. The observations of the structures of these cultivated rice husks in the pottery pieces showed that the grains were shorter but wider than wild grains, and were cultivated rice that had been selected by human beings from the early civilization.” <^>

8,000-Year-Old Rice Paddy, Maybe World’s Oldest, Found Near Nanjing

In May 2016. Chinese archaeologists said they have found a paddy dating back more than 8,000 years — which could be the earliest wet rice farming site in the world, about 350 kilometers northwest of Shanghai. Xinhua reported: “The field, covering less than 100 square meters, was discovered at the neolithic ruins of Hanjing in Sihong county in East China's Jiangsu province in November 2015, according to a spokesman with the archeology institute of Nanjing Museum. [Source: Xinhua, May 6, 2016 /~/]

“At a seminar held in late April to discuss findings at the Hanjing ruins, more than 70 scholars from universities, archeology institutes and museums across the country concluded that the wet rice field was the oldest ever discovered. Researchers with the institute found that the paddy was divided into parts with different shapes, each covering less than 10 square meters. They also found carbonized rice that was confirmed to have grown more than 8,000 years ago based on carbon dating, as well as evidence that the soil was repeatedly planted with rice. /~/

“Lin Liugen, head of the institute, said Chinese people started to cultivate rice about 10,000 years ago and carbonized rice of the age has been found, but paddy remnants are quite rare. Lin said the findings would be significant for research on the origin of rice farming in China.” /~/

Earliest Rice Fields Found at 7,700-Year-Old Swamp Site in Zhejiang

In 2007, James Owen wrote in National Geographic News, “Stone Age paddy fields tended by the world’s earliest known rice farmers have been uncovered in a swamp in China, scientists say. The discovery shows rice growing began in the coastal wetlands of eastern China some 7,700 years ago, according to a new study. Evidence of prehistoric rice cultivation, including flood and fire control, was found by a team led by Cheng Zong of Britain’s Durham University. [Source: James Owen, National Geographic News, September 26, 2007 <+>]

“The team’s research, which sheds new light on humans’ critical transition from hunter-gathers to farmers, centers on the site of Kuahuqiao in Zhejiang province near present-day Hangzhou,” about 175 kilometers southwest of Shanghai in the Lower Yangtze region. “The research follows previous excavations at the site that revealed a Stone Age community of wooden dwellings perched on stilts over the marshy wetlands. An 8,000-year-old dugout canoe, pottery made with wild rice as a bonding material, wood and bamboo tools, and the bones of dogs and pigs were also found.” The team’s findings are published in a late September issue of the journal Nature. <+>

“Zong’s team analyzed the sediments of the ancient swamp for signs of rice paddies. The researchers found the land was deliberately managed for rice growing. Fire was used to clear scrub, while flood-prevention measures helped keep brackish water from getting into the fields, the study suggests. “The site provided us well-dated evidence for the earliest rice cultivation,” Zong said. <+>

“Kuahuqiao supported rice farming until around 7,550 years ago, when rising sea levels suddenly deluged the area, Zong said. “Rice doesn’t like saltwater,” he said, noting that sea levels were rising at the time due to climate warming. “We think [saltwater levels] must have been managed. Otherwise you would see a gradual rise in the brackish water influence,” he said. The water may have been held back by small earth dikes known as bunds, Zong said. The team also detected increased levels of animal and human dung on the rice fields. “Whether the dung was deliberately used as fertilizer, or whether it was just washed naturally into the paddy fields, it’s very difficult to be certain,” Zong said. Rice fragments found in the swamp belonged to wild strains, the team found. The discovery of unusually large rice pollen grains, however, may signal the beginnings of domesticated varieties, Zong said. <+>

Dorian Fuller of University College London, an expert on ancient rice, told National Geographic News, the inhabitants of Kuahuqiao would have been “forager-cultivators.” “Rice cultivation isn’t the only thing they do, and it’s possibly not the main thing they do,” he added. “People who were using a wide range of other resources, including acorns and water chestnuts, started to manipulate marshland environments where rice was wild.” The study “provides the earliest known evidence of rice paddies, Fuller said, though other, less solid evidence points to rice farming elsewhere in China around the same period. <+>

Gary Crawford, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, said that the study is “an important contribution to understanding agricultural origins in the rice regions of East Asia.”The study, he said, provides “a fascinating interpretation that rice cultivation was taking place in slightly brackish coastal wetlands that were regularly flooded.” The study team says the move toward rice farming by the Kuahuqiao people was likely spurred by the onset of warmer, wetter conditions ideally suited to growing the cereal plant. The changing climate acted as a “critical environmental prompt to cultural change, permitting rice cultivation at this latitude,” the team said. <+>

Xiasun: a Pottery Production Center for Kuahuqiao?


Leping Jiang wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “The site of Xiasun is unusual, judging from its relatively homogenous remains and the fact that it is located less than 2 kilometers from Kuahuqiao. My colleagues and I propose that it was a special-purpose, satellite settlement of Kuahuqiao, which served as a locus of pottery production. [Source: “The Kuahuqiao Site and Culture” by Leping Jiang, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, Edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

“At Xiasun, the distribution of burned earth, sandstone, and pits seems to follow a regular pattern. There are concentrations of burned earth in the east, sandstone in the central area, and pits in the southwest. It is evident that a large quantity of sandstone was quarried from the neighboring hills, but the sandstone was not used to produce axes and adzes found at the site. I propose that people quarried sandstone for its iron minerals instead. Dark red iron minerals were found on one cobblestone hammer that probably was used to crush iron ores. Our analyses of the Kuahuqiao ceramics indicated that iron minerals are present in red slips and even in the clays of painted pots. Therefore, presumably the part of the Xiasun site with abundant sandstone functioned as an area to produce mineral pigments. ~|~

“We found multiple lines of evidence providing information about the nature of ceramic production at Xiasun. First, the categories of artifacts unearthed at Xiasun are relatively limited as a whole. The thin cultural deposit at the site, along with a dense concentration of pits formed in a short time and the extensive distribution of sandstone, suggest that Xiasun was a special purpose production area rather than a typical settlement. Second, we discovered five ceramic beaters ( paizi ) that served as pottery-making tools, many smooth cobblestones that could have been used to burnish vessel surfaces, and some big stones with smooth surfaces that were leveled neatly and that could have served as platforms for kneading clays. Third, we found two types of pits. The first type of pit was deep, probably the result of people digging for clay. The second type of pit was not as deep and contained ash of burned plants. ~|~

“There were many of these pits, and we believe they were used to store prepared clay for pottery production. We think the ash inside the pit was used as a cushion to separate the prepared ceramic paste from the earthen base of the pits (Zhejiang and Xiaoshan 2004 : 318–319; Jiang 2010). ~|~

Kuahuqiao Ceramics and Crafts

Leping Jiang wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “Craft products at Kuahuqiao sites include ceramics, stone artifacts, bone and antler tools, and wooden artifacts (some with a lacquer coating, discussed below). The Kuahuqiao pots can be divided into three morphological groups: round-bottomed vessels (79 percent), vessels with ring-feet (18 percent), and flat-bottomed vessels (3 percent). Vessel forms include the fu.. cauldron used for cooking, guan.. jar, bo..bowl, quanzupan ring-footed shallow dish, dou.. stemmed dish, and zeng.. steamer jar. Fu cauldrons were a common type of cooking vessel, and they were often used on more than one ceramic support ( zhijiao ). We also found ceramic fanglun spindle whorls. [Source: “The Kuahuqiao Site and Culture” by Leping Jiang, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, Edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

“An intriguing characteristic of Kuahuqiao ceramics is charcoal-tempering in the clay paste. One can observe the remains of plant ash on the surface of Kuahuqiao vessels. Cooking vessels were tempered with grit. Ceramic surface treatments include stamping, punching, incising, piecing, and appliqué. Appliqué normally shows up on the border between the shoulders and the belly of fu cauldrons. Piercing is mainly applied to the ring foot of vessels, and the designs include circles, crescents, crosses, a design resembling the character bu.., and a design like the character gong... ~|~

“Many Kuahuqiao pottery vessels are elegantly decorated. Often a coating of clay, a slip ( taoyi), was applied to the surface of vessels that were not used for cooking such as guan jars, bo bowls, dou stemmed dishes, and quanzupan ring-footed shallow dishes. The most common slip color is red, and slips were applied to different areas on different kinds of vessels. On many vessels the red-slip layer has flaked away, exposing a gray-slip layer. It appears that two layers of slip were sequentially applied after vessels were formed. Black slips have been identified, too. Many black guan jars and dou stemmed dishes reveal evidence of burnishing on both the outside and inside of the vessels. Burnishing a black slip is a relatively advanced technique. ~|~

“The most conspicuous decoration on Kuahuqiao pottery vessels is painting, but it represents only 2 percent of sherds in the ceramic assemblage. This technique was mainly applied to three types of vessels: guan jars, ring-footed pan shallow dishes, and dou stemmed dishes. Painting was usually applied on the slip covering. There must have been many more painted vessels than we have discovered, since coatings of slip would have often flaked off or faded. One style of painting was characterized by thick lines of a milky color on the exterior surfaces of vessels. Another style included thin red lines mainly on the interior surfaces of dou stemmed dishes and ring-footed pan shallow dishes. There were several types of painted designs, including bands, wavy lines, flames, and sun images. ~|~

“Most Kuahuqiao pottery vessels appear fairly consistent in shape and thickness, indicating a relatively high level of ceramic shaping and firing techniques. Evenly produced raised lines are evident on guan jars, bo bowls, and dou stemmed dishes, suggesting that these vessels were finished on slow-turning wheels. According to experiments, Kuahuqiao ceramics were fired at relatively low temperatures, from 750̊C to 850̊C. ~|~

“We discovered the carbonized remains of food on the interior surfaces of several fu cauldrons. We identified the remains of seven types of plants on the basis of the size and surface characteristics of starch grains, including plants of the grass family – possibly Setaria italica (foxtail millet) and Oryza (the genus including rice), the bean family (likely genus Vigna), and nuts (possibly acorns). The diversity of starch grains from the sherds suggests multiple functions for the fu cauldron and a diverse diet for the Kuahuqiao people. ~|~

Kuahuqiao Stone Tools and Baskets


bone dagger and needles

Leping Jiang wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “There were diverse stone, bone, and wooden artifacts recovered from Kuahuqiao. The raw material of the lithic artifacts mainly consists of sedimentary rocks, with a few volcanic rocks from the surrounding uplands. The choice of materials was related to the function of the objects. Adzes are all made from a variety of sedimentary rock that has good ductility and fine granules. Whetstones are all made from another variety of sedimentary rock which is relatively tough with coarse granules. Some axes are made from volcanic rocks. Ornaments are made from fluorite. [Source: “The Kuahuqiao Site and Culture” by Leping Jiang, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, Edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

“Lithic artifacts were mainly chipped, pecked ( zhuo..), and polished. Chipping and pecking laid the foundation for efficient and high-quality polishing. Many small polished hammers were unearthed at Kuahuqiao. The entire bodies of the polished lithic artifacts are shiny. The other forms of lithic artifacts include adzes, axes, chisels, projectile points, grinding stones, and huang.. ring-shaped ornaments. In total we found three highly polished huang ornaments. Therefore, during the Kuahuqiao period, people already used fine stone to decorate the human body. One huang - shaped ornament with an oval cross section less than 0.5 centimeters long has an aperture that is elegantly drilled out on both sides. The holes on both sides match each other perfectly, indicating an advanced drilling technique. We also found the wooden handle of a stone adze, providing us with more information on the use of this tool form. This kind of adze would have been an important tool for making many kinds of wooden artifacts as well as canoes (discussed below). ~|~

“We also discovered basketwork composed of neatly retouched plant fiber that could have been used as dustpans or mats. Normally three threads were interlaced together with three others at a right angle to them. This advanced technique is still observed today. Rigid wooden sticks were found in some basketwork, suggesting that the basketwork was designed to function when bolstered by the sticks. ~|~

Kuahuqiao Bone Whistles and Darts and Wooden Oars and Knives


bone awl

Leping Jiang wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “The sources of bone artifacts include the shoulder blades, limbs, ribs, and skulls of mammals and fish. Deer antlers also were used. The bone was cut, pared, and polished to form artifacts including si.. spades, projectile points, darts, awls, needles, knives, spoons, whistles, and pronged fork-like tools ( cha..). The bone si spade was made from the shoulder blade of a large mammal. A handle was inserted into a hole that was chiseled out of the shoulder blade, while the spine of the scapula was finished to turn the soil. The lower part of the tools we found were broken or abraded. [Source: “The Kuahuqiao Site and Culture” by Leping Jiang, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, Edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

“Projectile points and darts were tools for fishing and hunting. Whistles, three of which were found at Kuahuqiao, were used as musical instruments, but originally they might have also been used to mimic cries of birds in order to entrap them. It is noteworthy that a number of bone tools were probably used for preparing clothes, such as needles. ~|~

“The sources of wooden artifacts from the Kuahuqiao culture include Chinese red pine, different kinds of oaks, beech, and bamboo. Most of these artifacts were made from the sapwood of bulky logs, indicating that the Kuahuqiao people knew sapwood was not prone to crack and would be advantageous for making objects. Many sharp, awl-shaped artifacts were baked to increase hardness. The kinds of wooden artifacts that we found include the awl, knife, projectile point, fork-shaped object, shovel, bow, and handles for some stone tools. Awls, 10–20 centimeters long, are the most numerous of the wooden artifacts. Their uses might have included darts for fishing or arrow heads for hunting. There are other wooden artifacts of undetermined function such as one with a ring-end wooden handle. In addition to the ladder previously discussed, we found wooden posts and oars (see below). An intriguing finding was what we interpreted as a wheel shaft ( lunzhou). Because some Kuahuqiao ceramics were finished on slow-turning wheels, the bell-shaped wheel shaft could have been the “seat” of a simple wheel. ~|~

Kuahuqiao Weaving, Pottery Repair and Medicine

Leping Jiang wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “There are a few special artifacts discovered at the Kuahuqiao site that represent significant achievements made by the human beings who lived there. These include weaving equipment, boats, lacquer bows, adhesion, and medicine. [Source: “The Kuahuqiao Site and Culture” by Leping Jiang, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, Edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

“On the basis of the bone and wooden knives, wooden poles, shuttles, and other tools unearthed at Hemudu, Lin (1992 : 126–133) has suggested that the Hemudu people had already invented a certain kind of equipment ( fangzhi gongju) for weaving cloth (apparently like a backstrap loom [Ed.]). It may have been operated by a crouching worker as seen among the Yi.. people of western China. The technique called for a log to be tied to the waist of the worker with rope, while the worker ’ s two feet extended to hold a second log, freeing the hands to weave the textile. At the Kuahuqiao site we discovered artifacts similar to those from Hemudu that we think were used for weaving. For example, stick-shaped artifacts could serve as a warp fixing bar, while bone and wooden knives could work for the weft. In particular there is a well-preserved bone knife, 28.8 centimeters long and 2.1 centimeters wide. One end of the knife, as wide as a palm (9 centimeters), was more abraded and therefore was probably the handle. If so, it seems that the width of the fabric was no less than 20 cm. The stick-shaped artifact with grooves on both ends may have been a cloth beam as described above for modern weavers. The only component of weaving equipment that we failed to discover at the Kuahuqiao site is a shuttle. The wooden and bone fork-shaped artifacts found there, however, could have been used to pick up threads. ~|~

“In addition, we found evidence for using resin as an adhesive to repair pottery at the Kuahuqiao site. There is one rim sherd from a dou stemmed dish that is about 6.7 centimeters long by 4.5 meters wide, with a black interior surface and red exterior surface. We know that the cross-section was broken for the second time because we discovered crimson semi-transparent adhesive material on the section, along which we also found a repaired crack with adhesive material on it. Along with the invention of lacquer, the use of adhesion testifies to the excellent capability of the Kuahuqiao people to understand and utilize natural materials. ~|~

“Another noteworthy object found at Kuahuqiao was a small pottery fu cauldron decorated with cord-marking. The jar has a flaring mouth, a bulging body, a round bottom, and a pointed end. It was discovered with a bunch of similar-looking plant stems inside, about 5–8 centimeters long. These stems were relatively neatly placed – slightly coiled, at the bottom of the vessel. A lack of mud between the stems leads us to believe that this bunch of plant stems was inside the vessel before it was discarded. ~|~

“The fact that these stems did not disperse, but clinched closely to each other, indicates that they had already been cooked soft when discarded. Further evidence for this idea can be seen from the traces of smoke and fire on the exterior surface of the vessel. I believe that the best explanation for these plant stems is that they were prepared as medicine, later discarded for some reason. A sample was sent to the Chinese Medicinal Laboratory of the Zhejiang Institute of Drug Quality Control, and the contents were identified as a plant stem and branch. Prehistoric peoples must have known the medical value of natural materials, as later people in China did. The finding at Kuahuqiao is an important new clue to the origin of Chinese medicine, especially medical herbs. ~|~


dugout canoe


Kuahuqiao Boats and Lacquered Bows

Leping Jiang wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “Another notable discovery at the Kuahuqiao site was part of a boat 5.6 meters long, the earliest boat found in East Asia so far. One end of the boat is almost complete, with its broadside around 1 meter. The bow of the boat is 29 centimeters wide and the width extends to 52 centimeters on the main body. The boat is similar in shape to a canoe, and it was made from pine. When it was discovered, the boat was fixed to a wooden stake on the shore. There were timbers, wooden stakes, wooden tools, and an unfinished wooden oar nearby. This suggested to us that people built and repaired boats at that location. Since the boat was worn and broken, it may have been in the process of being repaired. A major part of the broadside was missing, and the broken crosssection was trimmed in order to be put together with additional boards to raise the broadside. Strips of pine wood found near the boat, the same kind of wood as on the body of the boat, probably were intended for use in repairs. A second hypothesis is that people planned to add one or two “wings” ( bianjiating) to the boat. 1 A small boat with one or two “wings” would be more able to withstand a storm on the water. [Source: “The Kuahuqiao Site and Culture” by Leping Jiang, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, Edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

“We also recovered a partially preserved lacquer bow at the Kuahuqiao site. The two ends are relatively slender, two to three centimeters in diameter. The cross section of the middle part (17 centimeters long) is oblate, but its flattened side is opposite to that of the rest of the bow body, indicating that the middle part was the handle. This bow was made from mulberry. It is particularly noteworthy that red lacquer was painted on the bow, the earliest lacquer artifact found in China. 2 Laboratory analysis showed that the wooden bow was covered by three layers of lacquer, and ferric oxide was identified. Infra-red spectrum analysis reveals that the lacquer is identical to modern raw lacquer. ~|~

Art and Religious Beliefs

Leping Jiang wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “The findings at the Kuahuqiao site also suggest the existence of art and religion. For example, musical instruments such as bone whistles were discovered. Many bone whistles were discovered at the Jiahu and Hemudu sites. As previously discussed, the shaping and surface treatment of pots was not only determined by function but also by aesthetic perceptions. There are several kinds of painted and incised designs on the pots. Since vessels were usually placed on the ground, decorations such as painting were often applied to the shoulder and rim of jars or the interior surfaces of plates, making them visible from above. The painted strokes suggest that a certain kind of tool with a soft end was used. All these findings indicate that the Kuahuqiao people already possessed artistic consciousness. [Source: “The Kuahuqiao Site and Culture” by Leping Jiang, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, Edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

“There were several kinds of painted designs on ceramics, as mentioned above, such as bands and designs shaped like flames. We also found incised designs on ceramic, antler, and wooden artifacts. These can be classified as realistic representations and abstract designs. The former class includes wave designs, grid designs, and “hanging curtain” ( chuizhang ) designs often seen on the lower neck of jars, close to the shoulder. The Kuahuqiao site was close to the bay, and east of the site was open water. The wooden boat and other artifacts demonstrate that water had an important role in the daily life of the Kuahuqiao people. Therefore, it is logical that wave designs are quite common on ceramics. Grid designs probably represent fishing nets, and we also discovered a cross-shaped bone tool designed to make fishing nets. The “hanging curtain” design could represent curtains used in houses, although it is not something we would expect to see at such an early date. The interpretation seems plausible given the evidence for weaving that we found. ~|~

“Some designs seem to indicate particular religious beliefs. For example the sun and flame designs could indicate sun worship. A design like a ladder could symbolize communication with the spiritual world. The extensive use of cross designs on objects at Kuahuqiao is consistent with the other evidence of sun worship. Architectural feature B, the earthen platform described earlier, could have been used for sun worship. This layered platform is roughly circular in plan view. It was composed of as many as 19 layers, and we found evidence of burned earth on each layer. The process of constructing the platform was essentially the process of gradually accumulating deposits of burned earth. The function of the burned earth cannot be easily explained from a practical perspective. It would have been almost impossible for a cooking site in the open air to evolve into such a stable and independent platform structure; therefore, I suggest that this platform was used for making sacrificial offerings with fire. The excavated part of architectural feature B is around 10 meters by 10 meters and around 1.6 meters high. Besides the uppermost layer, there is a shallow pit, around 1–2 meters in size, where earth was burned in each of the 19 layers. A few other pits contained fragments of human skulls and antler, likely sacrificial offerings. ~|~


oar-shaped wooden vessel


Relationship of Environmental Change to the Development and Decline of the Kuahuqiao Culture

Leping Jiang wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “Global environmental change deeply impacts the lives of human beings on earth. Research on the evolutionary history of ancient peoples, especially in regions relatively sensitive to environmental change, can lead to a more profound understanding of the relationship between environmental transformation and human development. As previously explained, the Kuahuqiao site is situated in the lower Qiantang river valley. [Source: “The Kuahuqiao Site and Culture” by Leping Jiang, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, Edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

“The Kuahuqiao culture may have derived from the Shangshan culture of the upper Qiantang river valley. Why did that Neolithic culture begin in the upper river valley area? To answer this question we need an environmental perspective. Recent research shows that climate during the earlier Holocene fluctuated, and one area where this occurred was the middle and lower Yangzi river valley (Wang Kaifa and Zhang 1981 ; Du 2002). The climate changed in Zhejiang during the early and middle Holocene according to the following stages: 1. Around 11,000–9000 BP (c. 9050–7050 B.C.): wind increase during the summer, warm and humid; 2. Around 9000–7600 BP (c. 7050–5650 B.C.): temperature dropped, dry and cold, extremely low temperatures around 8200 BP (c. 6250 B.C.); 3. Around 7600–4800 BP (c. 5650–2850 B.C.): optimum period of the Holocene, warm and humid. ~|~

“The dates from the dendrochronological calibration of remains from the earlier Shangshan site is between about 11,400 and 8600 BP (c. 9450–6650 B.C.), corresponding to the period of climate fluctuation in the early Holocene. During this period, it was warm and the ancient Shangshan people could relatively easily attain food through diverse methods. But then a cold wave began, and temperatures dropped 7.8–10̊C around 8200 BP (c. 6250 B.C.) (Wang Ninglian and Yao 2002). This would have deeply influenced the economy of the Shangshan culture. The drop in temperature would have made forest cover degenerate, causing food shortages and changes in subsistence practices. Human beings had to cultivate plants in order to obtain stable food supplements. Following the fall of temperature and sea level, land areas in the lower Qiantang river valley expanded providing pioneer plants the opening to grow, creating new opportunities for survival. From about 8000 to 6900 BP (c. 6050– 4950 B.C.), after a short period of temperature decline, temperatures began to rise gradually around 7600 BP (c. 5650 B.C.). Therefore the Kuahuqiao culture could then develop and flourish under a more suitable climate. ~|~



“The decline of the Kuahuqiao culture was also closely related to environmental deterioration. I initially mentioned that supralittoral and mesolittoral zones were deposited above the Kuahuqiao site, indicating that the abandonment of the site was fundamentally caused by flooding due to the rise of sea level. This is a very important phenomenon and a crucial clue to the study of change in the Holocene coastline and THE KUAHUQIAO SITE AND CULTURE 553 its relationship to human cultures. Sea level rose globally during the Holocene, and there was a relatively high sea level along China during the period 7000–5000 BP (c. 5050–3050 B.C.). The advance of the sea not only submerged relatively low areas along the coastline, but it also made the depositional environment change in the lower river valleys. During excavation of the Kuahuqiao site, we discovered evidence for sea level changes from analysis of soils and fossil diatoms. Diatoms can be divided into different ecological types such as coast, bay, and stream. Fossil diatoms in deposits are important clues for the study of ancient environments (Tsuji 2000 : 43–78). ~|~

“We found many kinds of diatoms in soil samples from the Kuahuqiao occupation layers, in the supralittoral and mesolittoral sediments above it, and in the marsh underneath the cultural layers. The change of the composition of fossil diatoms in the various soil layers indicates that the Kuahuqiao site was mainly surrounded by fresh water suitable for human habitation during a period of sea retreat, but around 7000 BP (c. 5050 B.C.), human beings could not live along the Hangzhou Bay because of the advance of the sea. ~|~

“The most convincing evidence for the argument that the Kuahuqiao site was directly submerged under water due to transgression of the sea comes from the Xiasun site, where we can see the superimposition of marine beds upon human occupation layers. This pattern, however, only indicates the temporal sequence of the two deposits, but not the causality; that is, whether the site was abandoned because of the advance of the sea. Although our set of radiocarbon data from geological survey proves that these two events took place at about the same time, we need direct evidence that the site was invaded by the sea, and this is supplied by the Xiasun site. ~|~

“We found remains of barnacles on the bottom of many pieces of excavated sherds and lithics, showing that they were once immersed in seawater. Biologically, barnacles usually live on microbes carried by the tide, positioning themselves against the tide. ~|~

“This indicates that the site suffered greatly from tidal incursions in this period. Also, wooden posts at the site were eaten hollow by shipworms, which can only survive in seawater. Later the site began to be submerged in relatively still water. In the early phase of this period, the location of the site was suitable for the growth of shellfish from eastern China called Glauconome chinensis (common name: zhongguo lulang) which normally lives at the mouths of low-level saline rivers along the coast. Therefore, the Xiasun site demonstrates submergence of areas during the end of the Kuahuqiao period, likely causing abandonment of settlements. ~|~

“According to current chronological data, the time when the Kuahuqiao site was abandoned was approximately when the Hemudu site was established. Both sites were located at a similar height above sea level, and both were situated around the Hangzhou Bay. It is a seemingly contradictory phenomenon that one was submerged while the other developed. ~|~

“The special hydrological environment at the mouth of the Qiantang river determined the depositional characteristic of the Kuahuqiao site. The reciprocal action of the flow of the river and the advance of the tide shaped a topography high in the south and low in the north – in other words, high coastline and low hinterland. Our conclusion is that the rise of sea level that began c. 7000 BP (c. 5050 B.C.) did not last long enough to submerge the site completely. It was the regional rise of sea level and subsequent soil deposition due to the changing tide and river that was the decisive force.” ~|~

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ; Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>; University of Washington’s Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, depts.washington.edu/chinaciv /=\; National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ Library of Congress; New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; China National Tourist Office (CNTO); Xinhua; China.org; China Daily; Japan News; Times of London; National Geographic; The New Yorker; Time; Newsweek; Reuters; Associated Press; Lonely Planet Guides; Compton’s Encyclopedia; Smithsonian magazine; The Guardian; Yomiuri Shimbun; AFP; Wikipedia; BBC. Many sources are cited at the end of the facts for which they are used.

Last updated November 2016

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