Archaeology Of Early China Essays Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Evidence, China, Archaeology, Rice, Culture, Agriculture, History, Bronze

Pages: 8

Words: 2200

Published: 2020/12/29


The article discusses the archaeology of China and the conclusions drawn from the archaeology. Special emphasis is given to the Sanxingdui and Anyang archaeological sites and their roles in the Chinese civilization. The two areas are similar interms of the artifacts found such as the tools, living structures and burial structures. The document also does a comparison of the two sites. In addition to that, the agricultural practices of the ancient people is discussed with emphasis on the adoption of agriculture and the domestication of crops such as rice ans millet. the high population of the country, China ranks among the first countries in agricultural output. China primarily produces rice, wheat, potatoes, tea, peanuts, millet, sorghum, barley and cotton. It produces sufficient food for its entire population that constitutes 20% of the world’s population and even produces surplus. The development of farming in the course of China’s history is one of the reasons for the large population of the country.

Plant Domestication of Early China

The artifacts of the Yellow River basin in Northern China and that of the Yangtze
. The introduction of agriculture in China dates back to the Yangshao Culture that was dated to have begun in the 5th Millennium BCE. That sated back to the Neolithic era whereby sedentary sites have been discovered at the base of the Yellow and Wei rivers. Some regions to the north of the Yellow River were also found to harbor such artifacts . Asian civilization revolves around rice. The domestication of rice turns the previously nomadic Chinese people that were also hunters and gatherers into settled farmers. The settling of the Chinese led to the possibility of centralization of the systems of the societies that are shown by the presence of archaeological evidence of large clustered settlements. The first urban centers came up and the possibility of building dynasties and empires became a reality. The domestication is explained by the need for the diversification of the diet of the Chinese people and the ease that came with domesticating the plants. Going into the wild to gather rice was cumbersome and the idea of having the rice within reach was attractive to the majority .
The evidence of the settlements of the agricultural remains is found in the same areas whereby more is revealed about their social and economic activities. The archaeological remains are sorted into regions such as the Peiligang and Cishan located at the Yellow River’s middle reaches, Dadiwan at the base of the Wei River and Houli found in Shandong. There is also the Xinglongwa at the base of the Liao River. More evidence is found at the Yagtze valley and Pearl River Valley. Large amounts of domesticated plants were found in the area, representing the final stages of China’s transition into an agricultural lifestyle. The sites have remains that prove the existence of large centralized communities. The development is also seen in the well developed and defined cemeteries and the remains of public structures and permanent houses . The transition was a slow and lengthy process as proved by recent research and archaeological evidence.
The gradual transition of agriculture is seen in the archaeological evidence found at the Yangtze River whereby some of the storage pits have rice and acorns. That shows that the consumption of rice was done together with the consumption of acorns. However, with time, the newer archaeological evidence shows less proof of acorns as an edible grain and more evidence of domesticated rice. The domestication of rice could have also been driven by the need to have safer options of food. The acorns had to e processed before consumption as shown by the archaeological evidence of the millers and stone grinders found in the most famous archaeological sites. Rice also had different methods of preparation such as grinding to make rice flour and cooking the rice the normal way. The domestication was also influenced by the convenience that was created by having crops within close reach .
Many parts of Northern China have been found with tools a=that show proof of agricultural activities. There was the use of stones to grind what archaeologists conclude were grains. In addition to that, studies show that they were used to process seeds, and acorns. Acorns are complicated in the preparation process, especially because they could be poisonous. The grinding stones are evidence of the consumption of secondary agricultural produce that proved the existence of diversified food exploitation. The Neolithic revolution is also associated with the proof of polished stone axes that are discovered in the archaeological sites sowing the agricultural activities such as the clearing of fields and digging up roots.
The ceramic production signifies the era of domestication of plants. Pottery and agriculture are related. However, they are not related in that they were used for the actual agricultural activities. That is especially because ceramics are heavy and fragile. The use of baskets could have been more reasonable. In China, the ceramics are associated with the processing of tough and even toxic foods such as acorns, legumes and cereals.
The domestication of rice was brought to the Yangzi River from the south. The earliest signs of rice domestication are proved by the archaeological evidence of the rice remains that are found in the pot remains at Shangshang. Phytolith and microfossil evidence also revealed that there were chaff, stalks and leaves present in the pottery artifacts excavated in the areas. According to the evidence, it is concluded that the rice was collected by uptooting or cutting off the stalks with sickles or knives. The use of uprooting or stalk-cutting harvesting methods is believed to have been done so as to ensure that only the mature spikelets that had tough rachis were collected. The methods probably reduced the maturation rate of slow-ripening spikelets that eventually led to the domestication of rice. The spikelets at Shangchang are longer that those from the latter periods. The method used to distinguish the traces of domesticated rice from those of wild rice is the presence of the scars left on the racis from the harvesting processes .
Millet is agreed to have been domesticated in Neolithic China. However, debate about the particular species that was first domesticated between common millet or the foxtail millet still continues . Millet was the most popular crop that was grown in the dry farming. Millet remains were discovered around thirty years ago in Northern China, at Cishan, one of the early Neolithic site. 50,000 Kg’s of millet were found in storage pits. The archaeological site contains 88 storage pits, each with significant amounts of millet. Numerous millstones and houses were also discovered at the archaeological site whereby tools such as stone shovels and grind rollers were also excavated. The evidence leans towards the conclusion that the earliest form of millet that was grown in China was foxtail millet because of the small size of the grain ashes that remain. The small particles resemble foxtail millet more that they resemble common millet. However, the assumptions about the species is yet to be concluded because there is also evidence of the continuous transition of the forms of rice over time.

The Anyang Culture and the Sanxingdui Culture

There are more than a hundred artifacts that prove the existence of early civilization in Sichuan Province, contrary to previous knowledge. The Ancient Sichuan proves to have a rich agricultural history according to the recent discoveries that in Sichuan. They are proof of the undiscovered ancient civilization that seemed to thrive during the second millennium BC. Local tradition is manifested by the discovery of the proof of pottery as well as the sites that were walled (Shen, 2002). The bone inscriptions that claim that the Chinese civilization began in 1300 BC have also been proven wrong by recent discoveries and archaeological excavations. The political and colonial role played by the colonial government in the documentation and exposure of the Chinese history has been challenged by the country’s own self-archaeological studies. The origin was the Yellow River whereby the Shang dynasty was the most powerful dynasty at the time.
According To Chen (2002), Sichuan represents the ancient Mesolithic cultures. There is evidence of axes and polished stone celts. Sichuan is said to be the most probable origin of the people that pioneered the Neolithic Agricultural settlements in that were established in the fertile plains of the Yellow River. The Neolithic culture of China was especially unique as the artifacts show. For instance, the existence of the stone harvester that was perforated and proof of the burial of dogs besides their masters are unique to China as compared to the other neighbors such as India. The bone tools that were discovered also show the isolated development of China and the minimal influence of the surrounding cultures. In addition to that, the evidence of pottery is proof of the Neolithic ceramics of the bronze-age of the Chinese culture.
Ancient China was an empire of centralized organization whereby the Erlitou culture site provided proof of advanced settlements that are believed to have existed during the Xia Dynasty that lasted until it was overthrown by the Shang Dynasty in the 19th century. The Sanxingdui site shows the beginning of the state society that was situated in the Sichuan basin. The materials found in Sanxingdui are evidence of the connection between Central China and Sichuan. The artifacts represent the culture of Sichuan that shows the first phase of the Bronze age in the province. Other early bronze-age settlements were discovered in Jinsha.
The archaeological studies carried out in Sanxingdui are evidence of the region’s role as a cultural center in ancient China. The Sanxingdui ruin is the only known ruin that shows proof of walled cities during the bronze-age. Anyang also revealed proof of the bronze-age by the presence of buried bronze poles and other artifacts. Pottery was the most common artifact that was discovered in the area. According to Stark (2006), Eastern and Southern Asia have a series of similarities that cannot be ignored.
Sichuan Province has more than a dozen archaeological sites whereby most of the discoveries made took place in the last twenty years. Sichuan was viewed to be under the shadow of the cultural dominance of Central China until the rise of the Qin-Han dynasties. All evidence of the ancient civilization of China has always been directed towards the Yellow River Basin until the numerous discoveries were made at Sichuan. The generalization of the notions originated from the discovery of Yinxu, a former capital of Shang that was found at Anyang in the 1920’s. However, the archaeological evidence of China changed drastically upon the discoveries that were made at Sichuan in the 1980’s. In fact, there is evidence of settlement in Sichuan in the Paleolithic times, although the sites that date back to that time are quite few.
The tradition of the locals of Sichuan at that time is explained by the extensive evidence of pottery that is found in the area. Walled sites within and around Sichuan are a part of the archaeological evidence. Pixian, one of the walled sites showed evidence of ceremonial cites . There is evidence of alters that are believed to be of the Boudun Culture that is dated back to 2500 BC. The area also represented the Longshan cultures of the advanced Neolithic societies.
The Sanxingdui site is located 41 Km to the North of the Chengdu City. It is recognized as the “Early Bronze-Age Cultural Complex,”. The state was highly advanced during the 2nd Millennium BC. There is great similarity between the bronze artifacts of Sichuan and those of Central China. However, the artifacts found at Sichuan seem to be more indigenous as compared to those of Central China. They represent the earliest forms of the Bronze-Age. Among the selected objects collected from Sanxingdui include bronze, gold, stoneware and jade.
Chingdu revealed evidence of settlement areas, workshops and ritual centers that shows the complexity of the society at the time. Xinyichun is the term used to describe the cultures of the people of ancient Sichuan. There are bronze hoards at the site called “Zhuwajie,” in Pengzhou. The artifacts are evidence of the ancient culture of the people. The two hoards have a difference of twenty years in age and are at a distance of twenty five meters. Each of the hoards of bronze were buried in a jars whereby twenty one pieces were found in one-the one discovered in 1959- and nineteen in the other one that was discovered in 1980 .

Comparing the Anyang and Sanxingdui Archaeological sites

The most common artifact discovered at the Anyang and Sanxingdui archaeological sites is pottery. The technology applied in the construction of the earthenware was relatively similar. However, chronological studies show that the pottery made at Sanxingdui was for daily use whereas that made in Anyang was made for a variety of uses. They were made for burial for the poorer members of the society. Some earthenware artifacts included animal sculptures and architectural structures such as tiles . The earthenware of Anyang was also more diverse as compared to that of Sanxingdui. In Anyang, there was evidence of hard earthenware, glazed ware and white ware. They were more advanced as compared to the plain simple earthenware.
The discoveries of the Anyang and Sanxingdui sites took place at around the same time. However, the two events were independent of one another. The discovery of the Sanxingdui site was accidental whereby a family that lived Yueliangwan –South Western China-bumped into ritual jades and ancient stone objects in 1929. The discovery of Anyang, on the other hand, came about in response to the inscriptions that were found on ox scapulas and tortoise shells. They were the reason for the first excavation of the site in 1928. The excavation of Sinxinghui took place in 1934. Anyang was said to be the capital of the late Shang dynasty. As a result, most archaeological focus was placed on the site.
The Anyang and Sanxingdui archaeological sites both show evidence of urbanization because they both displayed evidence of major urban centers of the Bronze Age. The evidence of pottery showcases the ancient traditions of the Chinese people that. The discoveries made at Anyang are another reason as to why the historical development of China was re-written. The large-scale excavations that were carried out in Sanxingdui from 1980 revealed numerous structural remains that revealed the distinct cultural identity of the people that inhabited the area.
The archaeological evidence found in Anyang Many complexes that are large and structures, more than 100 small and moderate house foundations as well as four tombs that have ramps and about 100 tombs that are believed to have belonged to members of the royal families. There is also evidence of workshops (2 of them), bronze foundries (3), pottery kilns (5) and 1 jade workshop.
The evidence of the similarities in the archaeological evidence is also seen in the two archaeological sites whereby they had walled structures showing centralized system of leadership. In addition to that, the evidence shows similarities in the cultures by the similarities of the graves of the royal members of the society. They are mostly the tombs that have survived time to be discovered. The city layouts are also square and the
There is evidence of the gradual expansion of Anyang over time-four development periods. The first era-Xiaotun era- shows no evidence of royalty. The second period is characterized by numerous royal structures whereas the third and fourth periods show an expanded territory and more sophisticated royal evidence.


The Anyang and Sanxingdui archaeological sites play a significant role in understanding the culture of the Chinese people, and pointing out the difference in the cultures. Explanations of various developments are also given by the use of the archaeological evidence. The gradual evolution of the Chinese culture is also explained whereby the adoption of the first agricultural products is discussed. For instance, the domestication of cereals such as rice is determined and the evolution of the crop is also understood. The whole paper shows the link between agriculture and the political and social systems of the Chinese people. Explanation is given behind the centralized communities that are found in the various archaeological sites such as Anyang and Sanxingdui. Agriculture made the centralization and permanent settlements possible.


Chang, K.-c., & Xu, P. (2002). The Formation of Chinese Civilization: An Archaeological Perspective. New York: Yale University Press.
Crawford, G. W. (2011). East Asian Plant Domestication, Archaeology of Asia. New York: Blackwell.
Crawford, G., & She, C. (n.d.). The origin of Rice Agriculture: Recent Progress in East Asia.
Lavi, G. S. (2015). The Archaeology of Early China. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Lua, H., Zhanga, J., Liub, K.-b., Wua, N., Lic, Y., Zhoua, K., et al. (2009). Earliest domestication of common millet (Panicum miliaceum) in East Asia extended to 10,000 years ago. PNAS, 1-22.
Shen, C. (2002). Anyang and Sanxingdui: Unveiling the Mysteries of Ancient Chinese Civilizations. Toronto: Royal ONtario Museum.
Stark, M. T. (2006). Archaeology of Asia. New York: Blackwell.

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