20080211-1171 Oldest wine Institute of Cultural relics and Archeology.jpg
Vessels with the
oldest wine
The earliest evidence of wine making comes from China: traces of a fermented drink made with rice, honey, and either grapes or hawthorne fruit found in Jiahu and dated to 7000 B.C. The previous earliest evidence of wine making comes from artifacts dated to 5400 B.C. from Firuz Tepe in Iran. Analysis by University of Pennsylvania's Museum of Archeology and Anthropology of the pores of 9000-year-old pottery shards jars unearthed in Jiahu turned up traces of beeswax, a biomarker for honey; tartaric acid, a biomaker for grapes, wine and Chinese hawthorne fruit; and other traces that ‘strongly suggested” rice.

There is some debate whether the concoction was a wine or a beer or something else. Grapes were not introduced to China from Central Asia until many millennia after 7000 B.C., so it is reasoned the tartaric acid likely comes from hawthorne fruit which is ideal for making wine because it has a high sugar content and can harbor the yeast for fermentation. Wine traces has also been found in a pottery sample from a Chinese tomb dated to 5000 B.C.

Nadia Durrani wrote in World Archaeology: “Jiahu, in the Yellow River Basin of the Henan province of northern China, is a compelling archaeological site, renowned for its cultural and artistic relics. Among the ancient houses, archaeologists have uncovered kilns, turquoise carvings, stone tools and flutes made from bone...Until this discovery, the oldest evidence of fermented beverages was dated to 5400 B.C., and comes from the Neolithic site of Hajji Firuz Tepe in Iran. Perhaps, suggests Dr Patrick McGovern a molecular archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania who undertook the new research, the innovation happened at the same time in both countries, but that older evidence from Iran remains to be found. Were there some indirect ties between the Middle east and Central Asia at that time in ancient civilization, McGovern wonders. [Source: Nadia Durrani, World Archaeology, January 6, 2005]


Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “The discovery of an 8,500-year-old fermented beverage made from rice was another world record for Jiahu....The chemical composition of the beverage is similar to that in some modern herbal medicines. The Jiahu beverage is the earliest identified fermented beverage in the world. [Source: “The Jiahu Site in the Huai River Area” by Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

McGovern recreated the 9,000-year-old concoction from rice, honey and hawthorn, calling it Chateau Jiahu, and had it commercially produced and sold at some places in the U.S. and Canada. Debra Black wrote in TheStar.com: McGovern and the folks at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Delaware decided to take the ancient beer’s ingredients and make a modern-day version of it. No easy task for the modern beer maker. “All that Patrick McGovern could tell us is what the evidence was or a laundry list of organic substances,” said Sam Calagione, founder and president of the brewery. “From there we have to create a recipe. We have to come up with the percentage or ratios and volumes of weight of honey, rice and fruit. We have to figure out how strong an alcohol it might have been. Whether it was filtered or cloudy, carbonated or flat. We have a lot of creative latitude to bring a modern interpretation of this ancient beverage back to life.” And it seems the company has succeeded with Chateau Jiahu winning a gold medal at the Great American Beer Fest in 2009. [Source: Debra Black TheStar.com, June 2, 2010]

Jiahu Inscribed Symbols

Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: Another important discovery at Jiahu is the inscribed symbols on artifacts. We found 17 groups of inscribed symbols on turtleshell, stone, bone, and pottery. Different symbols appeared on different kinds of objects. Were these the earliest Chinese characters, and what meaning did they have? We found that there were nine incised symbols on tortoise shells, five on bone tools and three on pottery vessels. [Source: “The Jiahu Site in the Huai River Area” by Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

Among the objects in burials, only one has an incised symbol. It appears on a stone tool “shaped like the end of a sword handle” ("bingxing shishi") and was buried with an aged female (see Henan 1999 : 973–975). Most of the skeletons in burials with inscribed turtleshells and bone tools were male. Other stone tools and pottery vessels with inscriptions were discovered inside houses and in pits. ~|~

“The Jiahu inscriptions are important because they shake the deep-rooted assumption made by many that pictographs on pottery from Neolithic cultures such as Dawenkou represent the origin of Chinese characters. The oracle bone inscriptions from Yinxu, the late Shang site at Anyang, is a fully developed writing system, and the Jiahu symbols are helpful for understanding the origins of that script. There are some strong similarities. First, both types of incised marks were made by the same kind of sharp tool, and they were made on bone, including on turtleshells. Second, the purpose of the oracle bone script from Yinxu was to document the results of divination. The Jiahu incised symbols must also have had some kind of relationship with divination. Therefore we believe that the incised symbols invented by the Jiahu people more than 8,000 years ago have some kind of relationship with the origins of the Shang oracle bone script and therefore could be relevant to the origin of Chinese characters.” ~|~

brick showing wine making in ancient China

Signs on 8,600-Year-Old Jiahu Tortoise Shells: World’s Earliest Writing?

Signs carved into 8,600-year-old tortoise shells found in Jiahu, China may be the earliest written words, say archaeologists. The BBC reported: “They predate the earliest recorded writings from Mesopotamia – in what is now Iraq – by more than 2,000 years. The archaeologists say they bear similarities to written characters used thousands of years later during the Shang dynasty, which lasted from 1700-1100 B.C.. But the discovery has already generated controversy, with one leading researcher in the field branding it “an anomaly”. [Source: Paul Rincon, BBC Science, April 17, 2003. The research was published in the journal Antiquity. =/=]

“The archaeologists have identified 11 separate symbols inscribed on the tortoise shells. The shells were found buried with human remains in 24 Neolithic graves unearthed at Jiahu in Henan province, western China. The site has been radiocarbon dated to between 6,600 and 6,200 B.C.. The research was carried out by Dr Garman Harbottle, of the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, US, and a team of archaeologists at the University of Science and Technology of China, in Anhui province. “What [the markings] appear to show are meaningful signs that have a correspondence with ancient Chinese writing,” said Dr Harbottle. =/=

“The Neolithic markings include symbols that resemble the characters for “eye” and “window” and the numerals eight and 20 in the Shang script. “If you pick up a bottle with a skull and crossbones on it, you know instantly that it’s poison without the word being spelt out. We’re used to signs that convey concepts and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what we’re seeing here,” Dr Harbottle told BBC News Online. =/=

“However, Professor David Keightley, of the University of California, Berkeley, US, urged caution, particularly over the proposed link to the much later Shang script. “There is a gap of about 5,000 years [between them]. It seems astonishing that they would be connected,” he said. He added that the link had to be proved more thoroughly. But Dr Harbottle points to the persistence of sign use at different sites along the Yellow River throughout the Neolithic and up to the Shang period, when a complex writing system appears.He emphasised that he was not suggesting the Neolithic symbols had the same meanings as Shang characters they resembled. Professor Keightley added: “It’s a puzzle and an anomaly; [the symbols] are remarkably early. We can’t call it writing until we have more evidence.” He noted that there were indications the Neolithic culture at Jiahu may not have been complex enough to require a writing system. =/=

“But Professor Keightley did say the signs appeared to be highly “schematised” or stylised. This is a feature of Chinese written characters. Aggregations of small pebbles were found close to several of the tortoise shells. The Jiahu researchers propose that the shells once contained the pebbles and were used as musical rattles in shamanistic rituals. In one grave, eight sets of tortoise shells were placed above the skeletal remains of a man whose head was missing. The shells come from graves where, in 1999, the researchers unearthed ancient bone flutes. These flutes are the earliest musical instruments known to date.

8000-Year Flutes Found at Jiahu

The oldest playable flute, a seven-holed instrument carved 8,000 years ago from the hollow wing bone of a large bird, was unearthed in Jiahu. It and other bone flutes were found in the late 1980s but were not described in the West until 1999. The flutes were cut, smoothed at the ends, polished and finally drilled with a row of holes on one side. One of the broken flutes was repaired by drilling fourteen tiny holes along the breakage lines and then tying the section together with string. For a while the Jiahu flutes were declared the world's oldest flutes and musical instruments, but in June 2009, a 35,000-year-old bird bone flute found in a cave in Tuebingen, Germany was declared the world's oldest flute. In 2012, a 40,000-year-old bird bone flute from the site of Geißenklösterle, a part of the Swabian caves system in southern Germany, was declared the world’s oldest flute and musical instrument.

Thirty-three flutes—including around 20 intact flutes and several broken or fragmented ones and several more unfinished ones— have been found at Jiahu. All are between seven and 10 inches in length and are made of wing bones from the red-crowned crane, a bird that stands five feet tall and has a wing span of eight feet and is famous for its courtship dance. It seems plausible that ancient flutes were also made from bamboo. Ancient myths described bamboo flutes but no ancient ones have been found in all likelihood because bamboo decays more quickly than bone and doesn't survive burial for thousands of years like bone does. [Source: Zhang Juzhong and Lee Yun Kuem, Natural History magazine, September 2005 **]

bone flute

The flutes have between five and eight holes. They play in the so-called pentatonic scale, in which octaves are divided into five notes---the basis of many kinds of music, including Chinese folk music and rock n' roll. The fact that the flute has a scale indicates that its original players played music rather than just single notes. The flutes were probably used in some kind of ceremonial capacity but may have been played for entertainment. The flutes were found along with evidence early wine making, which suggests that the people who played them could have been a festive bunch. **

Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “The earliest bone flutes were found in 1986 in burial M78, one on each side of the left femur of the skeleton. Each bone tube had seven small drilled holes. Their similarity to modern flutes or vertical bamboo flutes attracted our curiosity. During 1987 two broken flutes were discovered in general cultural (midden) deposits. The total quantity to date is 25; 22 of them were grave goods...This kind of ancient artifact is extremely rare in the history of music. [Source: “The Jiahu Site in the Huai River Area” by Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

“In 2001, 15 years after the first discovery of bone flutes, during the seventh excavation of the Jiahu site, we discovered 10 more flutes, seven of which could be repaired. A new type of bone flute with two holes was discovered in burial M521. In the middle of the back of the flute are beautiful and delicate incised decorations. The length of the decorative belt is about 18 cm. It includes a cluster of rhombuses and one section that resembles a curled snake. In our understanding, the Jiahu bone flutes represent the earliest well-preserved musical instrument in the world.” ~|~

Types of Flutes Found in Jiahu

Archeologists have divided the flutes found in Jiahu into three groups: 1) the early phase, those between 9,000 and 8,600 years old; 2) the middle phase, those between 8,600 and 8,200 years old; 3) the late phase, those between 8,200 and 7,800 years old. [Source: Zhang Juzhong and Lee Yun Kuem, Natural History magazine, September 2005 **]

Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “The 23 complete flutes can be divided into three types based on shape. During the early phase at Jiahu there were five or six holes in the bone flutes, which can therefore perform scales with four and scales with five notes. Flutes from the middle phase have seven holes, permitting six-note scales. During the late phase, bone flutes with eight holes appeared while the seven-hole flute was still in use. (With the eightholed flute, one can perform scales with seven notes.) [Source: “The Jiahu Site in the Huai River Area” by Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

Only two flutes from the early phase were recovered, both from the grave of an adult male. One has five holes and can produce six distinct pitches. The other has five holes and can produce seven distinct pitches, including two notes repeated an octave apart. **

About two dozen flutes from the middle phase were unearthed. Fifteen are intact or could be reconstructed. One has two holes. The others all have seven holes and can play eight pitches. Despite some difference in the range of pitches the intervals between them are similar. **

Seven flutes from the late phase were unearthed. One of them can still played. These have eight holes and pitch intervals close together and are capable of a variety of melodic structures. A flute from the late phase found 80 miles from Jiahu in Zhinghanzhai has tens holes, staggered on two parallel lines with the intervals between them close to half steps. **

Playing the Jiahu Flutes

Notes from the playable flute have been recorded and analyzed. The flute produces a rough scale covering the modern octave, beginning close to the second A above middle C, and appears to have been tuned---a tiny hole was drilled near the seventh hole, with effect of raising that hole's tone from roughly G-sharp to A, completing the octave. **

left Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “How were these flutes played? What kind of melody could be produced? The author took flute 20 from burial M282 to Beijing for analysis by a musician after finishing the excavation. This flute was made from the ulna of a large bird ’ s wing. The bird has been identified as a red-crested crane. The two ends of the ulna were removed, making a hollow bone tube. The total length of the flute is 23.60 cm. Despite its more than 8,000 years of existence, the bone flute is still quite shiny and smooth. [Source: “The Jiahu Site in the Huai River Area” by Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

“Xiao Xinghua, the director of the folk music laboratory, Graduate Institute of Music, Chinese National Academy of Arts, first confirmed that the object is an instrument. We also had the director of the Chinese National Orchestra, Liu Wenjin, arrange a trial performance. It was performed by a flautist, Ning Baosheng, who produced the notes by holding the flute at an angle. After that, Xiao Xinghua asked a famous musical theorist, Huang Xiangpeng, to make an official test of the flute (see Zhang et al. 1999). The crucial step in producing the flute was to decide the locations of the holes, because they directly affect the pitch and scale. Locations for boring the holes were marked with many dots and lines before drilling and are still visible today. Some researchers proposed that the Jiahu people used some kind of mathematical method to decide the distance between each hole. At the very least the production required long experience (Zhang 1991). ~|~

Jiahu Burial Customs

Jiahu villagers practiced some unusual burial customs. In some graves the heads were severed from the body and pointed towards the northwest. Cut marks made when the bones were fresh indicates the heads were cut when the person was still alive or shortly after they died. Adults were generally buried whole in pits; juveniles were buried in pots. Most were buried in individual plots. Some were buried in groups up to six with a mix of sexes and ages.

Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “The burials of Jiahu site were superimposed or extended, and included a variety of styles and body positions. There were both single and multiple burials, the latter containing up to six skeletons. The types of burials include primary single burials and primary multiple burials in extended positions (" yangshen zhizhi"), secondary burials with single or multiple skeletons, and burials with some primary and some secondary interments. The burials mostly faced to the west. Mortuary goods mainly consisted of pottery vessels and bone tools, as well as paired turtleshells (upper and lower carapace) and sacrificed dogs. This is noteworthy because mortuary objects represent the social status of the deceased. After classifying mortuary objects and burial styles, we concluded that there was a certain degree of social division at the Jiahu site. The division is clearer in the late than in the early phase. [Source: “The Jiahu Site in the Huai River Area” by Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

Evidence for Social Differentiation in Jiahu Burials

Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “In this section I refer to the three initial phases identified for the site: early (first phase), middle (second phase), and late (third phase). Social-cultural development almost reached its zenith during the second phase, and it rose a little more during the third phase before declining. There is evidence for a social division of labor that becomes clearer over time, especially from the burials. [Source: “The Jiahu Site in the Huai River Area” by Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

“For the early phase at Jiahu, there were differences in the number and size of mortuary objects among burials. It appears that some social inequality existed in early Jiahu society. There were relatively large burials which had more mortuary objects such as production tools or special objects including turtleshells, bone flutes, and fork-shaped tools, all of which probably had spiritual meanings (discussed below). ~|~

“The tombs with special objects in this period not only contain many objects but are also large in size. With few exceptions, however, these burials also contain tools, especially those for fishing and hunting. This suggests that some individuals who often participated in productive activities also had some special skills related to music and religion. These people included religious specialists such as shamans (" wu") who probably had higher social status. The deceased in these burials obtained higher status by their own physical labor or special skills. Therefore social inequality at this time did not involve a privileged class, but early Jiahu society does not seem to be a society with full equality. ~|~

“For the middle phase, there were a few burials with more grave goods than others, up to 60 in one burial, although these were small objects such as bone rings, needles, or projectile points. Mortuary objects during this time were mainly production tools made of bone, and fishing and hunting tools. These were quite common for the site as a whole, so it is difficult to demonstrate differences in wealth. The pattern could suggest instead the work of the deceased when they were alive. Three tombs with secondary burials in the middle phase were all relatively small. In the middle phase, differences between graves with respect to size – a direct reflection of labor cost – were lower. The low degree of variation in grave size means that a standardized burial system such as usually exists in a divisional society (e.g., a ranked society [Ed.]) had not developed. There appear to be no regulations for scale of grave, number of artifacts, or burial tradition according to social rank. ~|~

“For the middle phase, the difference in social status between males and females was larger than that between individuals in different age groups. At this time differences in social status probably were not only based on labor but also associated with gender roles. It appears that the status of males was higher than that of females. ~|~

“For the late phase at Jiahu, the differences among burials with respect to size (a direct reflection of labor cost), were lower. The differences in tomb size are in the range of expected values to represent social equality, except that some single burials have more objects than others. Several tombs have not only the largest number of mortuary objects and size, but also are located in the central area of the burial ground. ~|~

“These tombs generally contain special mortuary objects or production tools, such as the burial with a male skeleton, M73, in area B. The tombs which contain special objects usually have more grave goods and are larger in size. In general, males had a higher status than females during the late phase at Jiahu. The difference in social status between males and females was larger than that between individuals in different age groups. In sum, social division in the late phase at the Jiahu site was not distinctive, but it is difficult to confirm that individuals in the society were totally equal.” ~|~

Jiahu Shamanism and Turtle Sacrifices

millstone and roller

Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “Ancient people in many areas espoused animism, a belief that many organisms and inanimate objects had spirits and that every phenomenon is controlled by supernatural forces. People believed they could induce or even force the natural world to work as they wished by undertaking certain ceremonies. Probably the most basic type of rituals involved shamanism, which makes use of specialists, shamans, who could act as mediators between the gods and humans. Their extraordinary abilities brought them respect, and they sometimes became leaders of the tribes or clans. Shamans were the transmitters of human wisdom and traditional cultural knowledge and were thus the intellectuals of the culture. During their social and religious activities, they probably accumulated a large amount of knowledge about astronomy, some sort of calendar system, biology, medicine, music, dance, and some type of early recordkeeping. [Source: “The Jiahu Site in the Huai River Area” by Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

“There are two kinds of evidence for such shamanistic rituals at Jiahu, involving the sacrificial offerings of turtles and dogs. We found that the Jiahu people had a distinctive tradition of turtle sacrifice. There were complete turtleshells in burials, trash pits, and house remains. Among the 349 excavated burials, 23 burials contained roughly 90 turtleshells and parts of shells. ~|~

“There were three patterns for these turtleshells in the burials: a pair of shells – carapace and plastron – placed together, a single complete shell, and shell fragments. Most complete shells and part of shell fragments were discovered with pebbles. There were some turtleshell objects that could have been used to produce a sound, perhaps for divination. These were made by drilling holes in a complete turtle carapace, putting pebbles inside, and attaching a plastron on the bottom with some kind of string to seal the pebbles inside. Based on divination methods used in Chinese history, the turtleshells with pebbles probably represent some kind of divination using numbers. Some of the turtleshells also contained bone needles or bone awls which may have been used for medicinal purposes. The positions of the paired shells with pebbles in the graves varied. Some were located beside the arms of the skeletons, others by the lower legs. ~|~

“One of these burials, M344, is particularly distinctive. There are skeletal remains of a male (Henan 1999 : 173), but the skull is missing. M344 has a large number of grave goods, including eight turtleshells with pebbles inside. One of them has proto-characters inscribed on it (discussed below). There were also two seven-hole bone flutes (also discussed below), and fork-shaped bone tools ("chaxingqi") found together with the turtleshells. These objects were probably used for shamanism. ~|~

“Each turtleshell was placed upon a different body part of the deceased, and most of the turtleshells contained pebbles. This deceased individual most likely was a shaman. There is evidence for ritual activity with turtleshells in habitation contexts as well. We found the remains of a turtle in the foundation of F17, the large early-phase structure previously described. There was a complete turtleshell and plastron in the bottom of a posthole, underneath an earthen wall. The turtle ’ s head faced west, the same direction as the door. It appears that the turtle had been placed there before the wall was built. Therefore, it obviously was a sacrifice for the house foundation.” ~|~

Jiahu Dog Sacrifices

Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “Dog sacrifice is another characteristic of Jiahu culture. The sacrificial offering of animals has a long history in China. Domesticated animals such as horses, cattle, sheep, chickens, dogs, and pigs, and wild animals such as deer and birds were all sacrificed during ceremonies in various periods. It seems that dog sacrifice has the longest history. During the Jiahu period, dog sacrifice was common, with dogs placed near graves or in marginal areas and not directly in graves. Dogs also were buried beside house foundations. It is possible that dogs were regarded as public property of social groups such as clans or families and were used for protecting areas such as burial grounds. There would have been ceremonies performed at the time these dogs were buried. [Source: “The Jiahu Site in the Huai River Area” by Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

“Ethnographic data can help us interpret the remains at Jiahu. For example, the Hani people (of southwest China [Ed.]) believe that dogs are the managers of their villages. Therefore, they often sacrifice dogs as offerings to ensure protection of the village. They perform a divination ceremony at the same time; if the result is regarded as bad, the ritual specialist kills another dog outside of the back entrance of the village. ~|~

“Judging from the chronology of the evidence for dog sacrifice in antiquity in other parts of China, the upper Huai river valley, where Jiahu is located, was the origin of the practice, which then spread to other areas. It eventually became an important aspect of ritual during the Shang period (after c. 1600 B.C.).” ~|~

Jiahu Pottery

Peiligang ding (cooking vessel)

Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “Craft production for objects made of clay, stone, and bone at Jiahu was well developed. The four steps of pottery production include raw-material preparation, shaping, decorating, and firing. Each step requires a specific technique and process. One of the main goals of studying pottery production should be to discover human thinking and behaviors by studying the techniques. Shaping and decorating are the most crucial steps. Function, raw materials, techniques, customs, and aesthetics are the factors that determine artifact shape. The prominent pottery techniques employed at Jiahu are slab-building (“nipian tiesu”) and coiling (“nitiao panzhu”). They were used in all periods; vessels made by both of these techniques were even found in the same trash pit or burial. These two techniques were very similar in terms of required raw materials and methods of decorating and firing. [Source: “The Jiahu Site in the Huai River Area” by Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

“According to research on raw-material sources, pottery production was carried out by individual families (Qiu et al. 2000). The firing atmosphere was mainly oxidizing, but there also is evidence for introduction of the carburization technique, “shentan gongyi”, producing a reduction firing atmosphere and allowing carbon to enter the body of the pots. For most vessels the firing temperature was not over 850̊C, but some pottery sherds indicate that firing took place in an atmosphere of more than 1,000̊C. In the middle phase deposits we found a more advanced “hengxue fengding yao” kiln, one with a top that could be sealed, allowing higher firing temperatures. This kind of pottery kiln was probably the predecessor of the “hengxue”kiln from the Yangshao culture, and it was both durable and reusable. The air channel or stokehole would take advantage of natural wind patterns to rapidly heat the wood in the fire chamber and regulate the temperature of the kiln. Because the main portion of the kiln was underground, the heat was concentrated within the kiln, which kept the temperature from escaping. This technology raised the productivity of pottery production, meeting the increased demand among clan members for vessels in response to increased agricultural production. ~|~

“Jars with handles and tripods served as cooking vessels; bowls, tripod bowls, and shallow bowls were used for meals; carinated (“zhijian hu”) jars or round-belly (“yuanfu hu”) jars were used for water. These forms suggest that the Jiahu people had knowledge of basic food-processing techniques, such as boiling, steaming, and baking. ~|~

“A proportion of tempering materials such as sand and ground-shell were added to clays used in preparing some vessel forms. In order to observe the microscopic structure and inclusions, we cut the pottery samples into thin sections and observed them under a microscope for petrographic analysis. In addition to sand, admixtures also include talcum, mica, carbonized rice husks, bone residues, and shell fragments. This discovery suggests that the Jiahu people had many choices of materials for potterymaking and understood tempering materials to some degree (see Henan 1999 : 905).” ~|~

Jiahu Stone Tools

Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: ““Lithic production techniques at Jiahu were well-developed. We have identified tool-making kits, tools for daily subsistence, and ornaments. Tool-making equipment includes the stone anvil, drill, and hammer. Subsistence production tools include the tongue-shaped shovel, denticulate sickle, axe, knife, chisel, grinding plate, grinding stone, pestle, and spear. Other types of stone tools and ornaments include stone rings, handle-shaped ornaments, tube-shaped ornaments, square pendants, triangular pendants, and round perforated ornaments. Most of these ornaments were finely polished and beautiful. Most of the pendants were made of turquoise, but some were jade-like. Most of them had drilled holes. Stone rings and turquoise ornaments were finely made. Turquoise ornaments were mostly rounded and triangle-shaped with drilled holes and used as personal ornaments for the head, ear, and neck. [Source: “The Jiahu Site in the Huai River Area” by Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

“The study of raw-material origin suggests that there was a long-distance trade during the Jiahu cultural period. It is important to understand the trade routes and associated human behavior at the time. We did petrographic analysis of the Jiahu stone tools to identify different types of stone (see Henan 1999 : 942) and their sources. Harder materials, such as sandstone and volcanic rock, probably were collected from riverbeds near the site. Soft stones, however, such as schist, shale, and slate, could only be collected from areas 25–40 kilometers away from the village. Even more rare stone materials for ornaments, such as fluorite and turquoise, must have been obtained from greater distances, at least 100 kilometers away from the village. Although fluorite is relatively abundant in Henan province, the sources are located 70–110 kilometers from Jiahu. Turquoise could have come from northwestern Hubei in the Yunxian area, a source known in historical times. This is the closest known turquoise mine, located several hundred kilometers away from Jiahu. The method the Jiahu people used to obtain the stone materials was probably exchange. Of course, we cannot rule out the use of raiding to obtain valued materials as well. ~|~

“As for material selection, the raw material for each tool varied according to tool function. The Jiahu people mainly used hard raw materials such as diorite, quartzite, and quartz sandstone to produce hammerstones and anvils that required a higher degree of hardness. Schist and slate were good materials for thinner tools. Therefore, shovels were made of schist, and sickles and knives were made of schist and slate. Grinding stones and pestles need a rougher material like sandstone. Turquoise, fluorite, and sericite schist were used for ornaments because they were colorful and soft. Flint and crystal were rare. Flint was used to make scrapers while crystal was used for drill heads. Limonite and purple siltstone containing iron were used as pigment. ~|~

“Stone tools were formed by hammering and percussion. From the observable marks on the tools, percussion was the main method. The “heating, quenching, and cracking” method (“gaowenjuleng fa” ) of heating then rapidly cooling the stone with water to crack it apart was used to make tools from schist, slate, or sandstone, which then could be shaped by percussion or sawing. According to ethnographic records, the Dulong people (of northwestern Yunnan province [Ed.]) used this method until the 1950s. The Jiahu people had developed skillful grinding methods; some tools resembled artwork. Except for some forms such as hammers, anvils, and whetstones, most stone tools were ground, and some were probably polished. The stone sickle with a toothed edge was the only denticulate tool, and the design was very effective. Used for harvesting, the denticulation increased the friction of the cutting edge. Even today iron sickles used for harvesting rice in southern China still have a toothed cutting edge. There are few differences between the three phases at Jiahu with respect to stone tool technology, except that the techniques for drilling and making denticulate edges only appeared after the second phase. In general the stone tool technology at Jiahu was advanced, because there were tools for many different functions and some tools were very finely made.” ~|~

bone arrowheads and teeth scrapers

Jiahu Bone Tools

Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong wrote in “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology”: “Based on their morphology, the tools of bone, antler, and tusk include pointed tools, tools with sharp blades, and ornaments. The production steps were material selection, cracking, shaping, polishing, drilling holes, and decorating. Bone sources were abundant, and the raw materials for most tools were the limbs of deer (“Cervidae”) and cattle (“Bovidae”), although some tools were made of cattle ribs or pig scapula. The famous flutes from Jiahu, discussed further below, were made of bird limbs. The material for the very common scrapers made of tusk should receive more attention. [Source: “The Jiahu Site in the Huai River Area” by Zhang Juzhong and Cui Qilong, A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, edited by Anne P. Underhill, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2013 thirdworld.nl ~|~]

“People made the tool by simply grinding the curved edges of roe deer (“Capreolus capreolus”) teeth. This tool was the antecedent of the hook-shaped tool made of roedeer teeth from the Dawenkou culture. There also were advanced techniques for polishing bone tools and drilling small holes in bone objects. ~|~

“The advanced techniques for craft production and the relatively standard processes employed indicate a primary division of labor in the village at Jiahu. The Jiahu cultural traditions had a great influence on later generations and made a tremendous contribution to the ancient civilizations of the Huai river basin. The other sites of the Jiahu culture previously mentioned are located mostly in the upper Huai river area. It appears that the Jiahu village had a bigger population, was larger in scale, and had a more developed economic and social system, so it probably functioned as a central community in the area.” ~|~

Image Sources: Flutes, Natural History magazine ; First Wine Vessels, Institute of Cultural Relics and Archeology in Henan; Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Robert Eno, Indiana University /+/ ; 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 \=/ 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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