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Thursday
Sep132007

Jades from major archaeological discoveries in China in 2006

Every year the Cultural Relics Press (www.wenwu.com) in Beijing publishes a book summarizing the major archeological discoveries in China. I have reviewed for you the 2006 edition and the articles therein. I picked those with references to jade items. The pertinent pictures and text has been taken directly from the book with only minimal editing. I hope that this information will be of value to you as the jade articles reported come from "official" excavations and thus put a particular form or material in a well defined temporal and cultural context.

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The Nanlou site at Gujia Village of Qingyang Town in Jiangyin City, Jiangsu Province was revealed in a salvaging excavation during February to May 2006. The findings suggest that the site comprises remains of the Shang-Zhou and the Songze Culture periods. The former vestiges include some dozen ash-pits; and the latter embrace a large canal, four house-foundations, various ash-pits and 25 tombs of the mid and late Songze culture with well-preserved traces of coffins.

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It is a rare phenomenon among the contemporary sites that the house-foundations, canal and tombs at Nanlou are connected in a stretch of land, which along with the size of the site and the scale of the house- foundations suggest that the site must have been the center of a group of settlements in this area.

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Jade items consisting of Huang semi-annular pendants and pointed ring described as jade mouth-piece

 

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The Longzui site is situated at the southern end of Longzui Hill in the territory of the third community of Wuliu Village and the first community of Zhangxiang Village in Shihe Town, Tianmen City, Hubei Province, about 5.6 km south of the Shijiahe city-site, occupying an area some 80,000 sq in with an elevation of 25.6-31.6m.

In coordination with the construction of the Sui-Yue Expressway, the Hubei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology carried out a salvaging , excavation here in March to September 2005. In the revealed area of about 1,900 sq in they brought to light eight house-foundations, 52 ash-pits, 12 ash-trenches,12 rectangular earth-pit tombs, 11 urn burials and 2 cooking stoves, as well as a city-site contemporary with them, all belonging to the Neolithic Age. The cultural deposits of the site are distributed mainly in the south of the ancient city, measuring generally 0.5 to 2m in thickness.

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These Neolithic strata yielded abundant objects, of which the pottery consist largely of red and black wares and belongs to the ding tripod, jar, bowl, dish, dou stemmed vessel, vessel cover, etc. types In addition, there are partially polished stone and jade artifacts.


The city-site is irregularly round in plan, 305 m in length from the north to the east, and about 82,000 sq m in area, with the walled part measuring some 60,000 sq m. The city walls are built in accordance with the terrains: those on the eastern southern and western sides are constructed on gentle slopes, while the northern one runs across the whole hill with a moat built outside. A trial excavation of the eastern wall shows that the ancient Longzui city-walls were constructed twice.

The western body of the eastern wall was rammed of loess at an earlier time. It is less massive, pure in earth texture and short in man-made object. The superstructure upon it is built mainly of rammed brown earth, with the protecting slope rammed of yellowish brown earth being complex in composition and containing quantities of red-burnt earth-grains, plant ash and man-made objects. This is the remains of the city wall built at the second time. The whole walls measure 1-3.2 min remaining height and 17 in in width for the foundations

In the light of the stratigraphic evidence and the unearthed artifacts, the Longzui city-site belongs to the time of the Youziling culture, obviously earlier than the Qujialing culture in the same area. Its discovery provided an important clue for inquiring into the origin of the ancient city at Shijiahe and the pedigree of archaeological cultures in this zone.

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Small jade ornaments from the Lonzui site

 

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The Changning site, a ruined large settlement belonging mainly to the Qijia culture, is situated about three km southwest of Changning Village of Changning Township in Datong County, Xining City, Qinghai Province. In May 2006, the Qinghai Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology carried out here a salvaging excavation, revealing an area of 3,000 sq m.

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The findings include 15 house-foundations, 150 ash-pits and cellars, five tombs and approximately 2,000 jade, bone, stone and pottery objects. In addition, there are remains of divination with sheep scapulas, as well as large quantifies of animal bones in rather a good condition. A preliminary study of the unearthed data suggest that the site goes back to the period of Qijia culture, dating from ca. 3500-4000 BP, an important era in the origins of Chinese civilization. Extensive in excavation area and intact in settlement form, the site valley has a very important value for research into the origin of prehistoric civilization in the upper Yellow River valley.

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A Neolithic axe blade in white jade from Changning

 

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The Nanbaoli Gaotu cemetery is located about 40 km southeast of Lubei Town in Jarut Banner, in Inner Mongolia . In August to November 2006, the Inner Mongolian Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology and other institutions carried out the excavation. Altogether they cleared out 142 ancient tombs and brought to light more than 350 pottery, stone, shell and bone artifacts.

The tombs are rectangular earth pits varying in depth and size, some furnished with head or foot niches, which contain a few funeral objects. The human skeletons lie largely alone in an extended supine position and rarely sidewise or prostrate, and joint double burial occurs only in one case.

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The funeral pottery fall into the types of cylindrical jar, double-handled high-necked jar, zun vase, bo bowl, dou stemmed vessel and peculiar-shaped object. In texture they are mostly of fine sandy clay ware and rarely of pure clay ware. In color the most common artifacts are yellowish-brown or brown, though polished black ware occurs in a small amount and grayish- brown ware in a very few cases. The stone implements can be classified into chipped and polished and belong to the types of arrowhead, anvil, scraper, adze, axe, chisel, quern, roller, etc. In addition there are turquoise, jade and shell artifacts. In the light of the previously obtained knowledge of prehistoric primitive culture in Northeast China, the cemetery can be preliminarily assigned to the late Neolithic Age.

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A particular lobed disc pendant in jade unearthed in tomb M26

 

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The Qilizhuang site lies to the south of Qilizhuang Village 3 km northeast of the seat of Yixian County , Hebei Province, and occupies an area of about 160,000 sq m with the cultural deposits measuring 1-2 m in thickness. Excavation on the site in April to October 2006 brought to light abundant cultural remains of a wide temporal range from the Neolithic to the Shang-Zhou, covering five periods, of which the Shang- Zhou cultural layers, i.e. those from the second to the fourth periods, come first in richness, yielding quantities of objects.

The central part of Hebei was the area where the Northern and Central Plains cultures of ancient China interlaced with each other, so the Yishui River valley became the key district for studying the amalgamation and collision of these cultures. The excavation of the Qilizhuang site on the northern bank of the North Yishui River led to the establishment of a rather detailed chronological system for the Yishui valley and even the northern region below the eastern Taihang Mountains foothills It revealed a clear cultural evolutionary track of this region in the Bronze Age.

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Stone Bi in its storage box made out of pottery. This is one of the very few examples showing a Bi as stored outside a tomb environment

 

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The Hucun aristocratic graveyard of the late Shang period lies about 1.2 km northeast of Lesser Hucun Village of Guangwu Town in Xingyang City, Henan Province, about 20 km northwest of Zhengzhou City proper, and on a terrace of the northern bank of the Kuhe River that surrounds its western and southern sides. In July to September 2006, the Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology along with the Zhengzhou Municipal Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology and the Xingyang Municipal Office for the Preservation of Ancient Monuments carried out there a salvaging archaeological drilling and excavation. The exploration covered an area of 80,000 sq m, where the graveyard measures about 400 m from the north to the south and 200 in from the west to the east. The excavated vestiges comprise 58 tombs of the late Shang period and102 burials of the Zhou, Song and Qing periods.

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The late Shang tombs are all rectangular earth pits and largely have inner and outer coffins. Their funeral objects are placed regularly, mostly in the inner coffin: ritual vessels at the tomb-owner's feet, weapons at the shoulders, and jades and cowries on the body or in the mouth. In terms of material there are bronzes, jade and precious stone artifacts and cowries; pottery occurs only in a small number. The ritual vessels fall into ding tripods, gui food containers, gu cups, jue three-legged goblets, you swing-handled pots, etc. In Tomb M 13, a special chime stone was discovered on the second-tier platform, which indicates that the tomb-owner must have been extraordinary in status. A lot of bronzes are inscribed with the character "She" It can be concluded that the graveyard belonged to the She family of the late Shang period and most of the tomb-owners must have been middle and petty aristocrats.

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Yue battle axe blade in white jade with greenish veins and weathering resulting in brownish areas

 

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The Hengbei cemetery is located some 1,000m north of Hengbei Village of Hengshui Town about 11 km west of the seat of Jiangxian County, Shanxi Province. Following their first excavation there in the winter of 2004, which revealed three tombs (M1-M3), the Shanxi Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology carried out an overall excavation in an area of 8, 300 sq m from May 2005 to May 2006. Altogether 190 tombs and 24 horse-and-chariot or horse burial pits of the Western Zhou period were discovered in the excavation area. The former point to the west-and-east, while the latter to the north-and-south. They are laid out in good chronological order by ranging from south to north, covering the time from the early Western Zhou to the early Spring-and-Autumn period.

Most of the large and medium graves with horse-and-chariot burial pits contain human and dog victims and are furnished with waist-pits. Of the 190 tombs 3 7 have ritual bronzes. The unearthed bronze ritual vessels and musical instruments total above 180, while the pottery objects, over 270. In addition, there are more than 2, 700 pieces/sets of proto-porcelain, jade, precious stone, bone, shell and bronze wares, including strung ornaments, horse-and-chariot trappings and weapons. In four burials, six funeral chariots were found on the top of the outer coffins.

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This is a newly discovered Western Zhou cemetery, where the early and late tombs yielded bronzes with the characters "Peng Bo" (Earl of the Peng) occurring in the inscriptions. Judged from the inscriptions of its bronzes, the scale of its tombs and the rank of its funeral objects, it must have been the burial ground of the ruler of the Peng State, his wife and his fellow countrymen.

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Handle shaped jade ornament from tomb M2158

 

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Since August 2005, the Yangshe Archaeological Team of Shanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology excavated again a Jin State ruler graveyard of the Zhou period on a hill south of Yangshe Village of Shicun Town in Quwo County, Shanxi. The cleared out tombs M1 and M2 are a Jin Marquis and his wife's joint burial in a double-pit tomb. The cemetery is opposite to the Jin Marquis graveyard of the Northern Zhao State across the river valley and consists of large-, medium- and small-sized tombs.

Tombs M1 and M2 are large-sized -shaped side-by-side earth pits, either with two passages in the north and south respectively and the central axis pointing to the north a little by the west. M1 has a chamber approximately square in plan and measures approximately 48.3 m in total length. The northern passage is like a flight of stairs, while the southern one is sloping, and the tomb-bottom is laid with stones and charcoal lumps. In the coffin are gold belt-ornaments and jades such as human face shaped ornaments, huang semi-annular pendants, a large ge dagger-axe, a large bi disc, thumb rings, etc. M2 is a little smaller in scale. These tombs are the largest among the graves of the Western and Eastern Zhou periods recorded so far in the Shanxi region. 15 m east of them is a large burial pit of funeral horses and chariots.

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Excavation in both tombs revealed traces of large-scale sacrifice in the south of the chamber and the southern passage. The sacrificial pits discovered and cleared out total approximately 250. Judged from the tomb form and unearthed objects, this graveyard can be roughly dated to the time from the late Western Zhou to the Spring-and-Autumn period, and the tomb-owners may have been Marquis Wen of the Jin State, a famous figure in history, and his relatives.

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Stylized human-face-shaped jade ornament and dragon pendant

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Further jade ornaments and a thumb ring in greenish jade with a red coating

 

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In March to December 2006, in coordination with the construction of a water pumping station, the Hubei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology carried out prospecting and excavation in the Yunxian Qiaojiayuan cemetery. In the area of 65,000 sq m so far surveyed, 64 tombs have been discovered to belong to the time from Spring-and-Autumn to the Ming Dynasty period . Among them four medium-sized Chu State tombs of the Spring-and-Autumn period have been excavated.

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They yielded ritual bronzes (some bearing inscriptions); and, in particular, human victims occur in all the four cases. These data have great academic value to studying the bronzes of the Spring-and-Autumn period as well as the burial custom and human victim burying institution of the Chu State.

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Crests and pendants in jade of the owner of tomb M6

 

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Since July 2004, The Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology has carried out over-two-year all-round prospecting and continuous excavation on the Qin State tomb-garden site on the Shenheyuan plateau in the southern suburb of Changan District, Van City, which was discovered in the construction of the new campus of Van Finance and Monetary College.

By November 2006, they have excavated the northern and middle gates and a funeral pit (K10) of the tomb- garden, the escape corridors north and south of the large tomb and the "Y' -shaped large tomb, carried out a trial excavation to investigate the funeral pit K8 and other related vestiges, and cleared out part of the building-foundations in the southern area.

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The excavation results indicate that the large tomb and funeral pits were robbed and burnt in early times, but various valuable cultural relics still remain in situ in a great quantity, totaling more than 300. There are gold, silver, bronze, iron, jade, stone, pottery, glass and lacquer wares, pearls, and linen fabrics. In date they can be preliminarily assigned to the late Warring States period.

Judged by the unearthed data, the tomb-garden must have been a well-planned project, with the southern and northern escape corridors built simultaneously with the large tomb, and the enclosing walls, partition walls, gate towers and southern building complexes constructed at the following stage. The excavation in the tomb-garden furnishes invaluable archaeological data for studying the architecture of imperial mausoleums in ancient China and the material culture of the Qin State.

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Fractured Huang disc in yellowish jade with grain pattern

 

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In March 2006 to January 2007, the Anhui Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology carried out a salvaging excavation to explore the Han tomb 1 at Shuangdun Village of Jin'an District in Liu'an City, Anhui Province. The tomb is furnished with a huangchang ticou, a square wooden enclosure built of 922 cypress blocks. Inside the ticou are double chambers and double coffins, and outside it is a well-preserved storage-room . Around the tomb are  horse-and- chariot pits, accompanying tombs and funeral object burial pits.

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The tomb was robbed in the Tang period, but in the present excavation it still yielded pottery, bronzes, iron, lacquer and wooden articles, jades, weapons, etc. totaling over 500 pieces. Based on related literal records and unearthed objects, it can be inferred to be the grave of the first prince of the Liu'an Princedom under the Western Han Dynasty.

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Seal in white jade and dragon shaped pendant in green jade.

 

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In March to October 2006, archaeologists excavated a large-sized wooden-chambered tomb of the Western Han on Mt. Fengpeng in Xingcheng Town of Wangcheng County northwest of Changsha City in Hunan Province, which yielded more than 200 pieces/sets of cultural relics. The tomb lies at the center of Mt. Fengpeng, about 10 km to the west of the Xiangjiang River. The mound and upper tomb-pit have been destroyed; the pit is cut in a red sand-stone roc and shaped like the Chinese character "middle." The tomb-passage, a stepped ramp, extends outward from the northern side of the tomb chamber. In the tomb is a huangehang ticou, a square enclosure built of cypress blocks between the walls of the pit and the outer chamber.

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Altogether there are nine chambers, and a lacquer-painted double coffin is placed in the south of the main chamber. The unearthed objects greatly vary in type, falling into gold, silver, bronze, jade, iron and pottery wares, silk, and crystal and paraffin wax artifacts, etc. The excavation of this tomb provided new clues for clarifying the distribution of the royal graveyard of the Changsha Princedom under the Western Han Dynasty. The unearthed objects and the tomb form suggest that the burial must have belonged to the late Western Han period. According to the inscriptions on unearthed lacquer articles, the tomb owner is a Changsha princess, which constitutes new evidence for studying the lineage of the Changsha princes.

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Large Bi disc in greenish jade typically of the Han Dynasty period

 

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In May to July 2006, the Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, excavated a cemetery of the common people to the west of Xiheishan Village of Dawangdian Town in Xushui County, Hebei Province. Being a rather completely revealed burial ground of the Jin and Yuan periods, it yielded important archaeological data. The cemetery lies on a terrace, with the terrains higher in the west and lower in the east. It is about 60 m long from the north to the south and 40 m wide from the west to the east.

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The present excavation covered an area of about 2200 sq m. It revealed 62 tombs, i.e. 48 brick- or stone-built house-shaped graves, four brick- or stone-lined pits, and 10 earth-pits. As most of them remained in a good condition, funeral
objects were often yielded in groups, including coins and porcelain, pottery, jade, bronze, iron and lacquer wares, all greatly significant to archaeological studies of the burial customs of the Jin and Yuan periods.

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Crude open-work jade pendant in yellowish jade

 

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The Longxing Temple-site measures about 100,000 sq m in remaining area. In September 2005 to March 2006, the Chengdu Municipal Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Sichuan Province carried out there an extensive survey and a salvaging excavation, which resulted in the revelation of vestiges of the house, ash- pit, well, drain ditch, wall-foundation, tomb, pool, tower and other types. The unearthed objects include stone Buddhist statues, scripture-pillars, scripture- tablets, building materials, terra-cotta Buddha statues, structural members, ceramic utensils, toys, bronze mirrors, and coins, totaling above one thousand.

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This is so far the largest-scale excavation in the exploration of Tang-Song period temple-sites in South China . The work clarified on the whole many problems of the Tang Longxing temple, such as its location, the factors of its abandonment and its relationship with Song Buddhist temples.

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Bird (dove?) in white green jade

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