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New Discoveries of Prehistoric Culture Found in Erhai Region

By Wang Jue Source Chinese Archaeology Published2014-10-22

The Binchuan Baiyangcun Site, found in the 70s, is located at Baiyang Village, Jinniu Town, north of Binchuan County of Yunan province, belonging to the settlement site of the river terrace of a Jinsha tributary. The site is about 6 meters above the river, and the best persevered center part is about 3 meters above the plough around, with an area of 1600 square meters and oval shape.

To understand the cultural connotations, chronology and the status and influence in regional cultural sequence of Baiyang Village Site, Yunan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology conducted the second excavation to this site from October 2013 to June 2014, with an area of 100 square meters. Altogether, about 1200 remains were found, including 242 ash pits, 18 house foundations, 17 earthen-pit tombs, 5 urn burials, 11 fire-usage remains, 4 fireplaces, 1 cooking stove, 1 activity surface, a large number of post holes and so on.

unearthed clam ornament

Ash pits of all periods are mainly round or oval.

House foundations include shallow base groove with plinth stone in the bottom, base groove with wooden column and semi-subterranean buildings, and there might also have been a form of building directly erecting columns on the ground. The buildings with plinth stone can only be seen in the late period, while the semi-subterranean in the middle period, and erecting columns on the ground and base groove existed in all periods.

Taking F5 as an example, it is rectangle and consists of rectangular grooves from the north and the west, postholes and living surface. 4.4 meters long from the east to the west, and 2.3 meters were cleared up from the north to the south. There are 27 postholes, including 8 at the east part of the living area, 14 in the southern groove, three in the western groove. There are two postholes in the living surface in the shape of irregular. The surface in the living area is hard, and the reason is it may had been rammed during the construction and stepped for a long time. No fire evidences were found in the houses.

unearthed stone knife

There are 17 earthen pit tombs, 16 of them are from late period, including secondary burials, limb-severed burials, joint burials, single burials and so on. Only one tomb from early period was found, M17.

M17 is a rectangular earthen shaft tomb, and the opening is 2.62 meters’ long, 1 meter wide and 0.88 meter deep. It is extended supine position burial, and the burial accessories near the head were pottery, one pot, two folded-belly bowls, one oval plate, one pot and one small pot.

There are 5 urn burials from late period and all individual are under age.

plan of tomb M17

About 1200 pieces of small objects, pottery specimens were unearthed. A large number of stone implements were found from the middle and late period, and most of them are polished, such as axes, adzes, chisels, arrowheads, knives and sickles. Pottery from the late period is mainly cauldrons and pots, as well implements with ring foot and implements with slanting spout. The pottery from the middle period has a variety of shapes: mainly pots with wide flared mouth, folded rim pots, contracted mouth bowls; a small number of pottery shard with wide opening and thick body characteristics; a large number of polished pottery shards; and an increasing number of pottery shards with patterns, which mainly are polishing line pattern, a great quantity of geometric pattern made of grid points and lattice, cross lines pattern, poked points and lines patterns and so on. The pottery from the early period are mainly wide flared mouth pots, small mouth pots and folded belly bowls, and also contracted mouth implements, rolling side implements and etc. The pottery shards are mostly polished inside and outside, with delicate and complex patterns, mostly geometric patterns consist of embossed points and lattice lines.

unearthed pottery pot
unearthed pottery bowl

Jianchuan Haimenkou Site is the only one which has exact age among the sites of Erhai area. The pottery shards with polished patterns were rarely found in other sites around. Compared with the cultures nearby, the age of Baiyangcun Site can be speculated about 3700 to 4200 years ago.

Thanks to the scientific excavation, we subdivided the cultural accumulation, found out the relationship between the site position and the objects appeared along; the site position and the remains. A large amount of effective original data information was picked up by the involvement of multiple subjects. According to the Radiocarbon Dating to the specimens, the framework of Site Chronology was reconstructed, the explanation of the research to site connotations and values was carried forward, and the scientific evidence for the later protection, presentation and application of the site were provided. (Translator: Wang Jue)