RICE AGRICULTURE AND POPULATION

STARTING WITH CARBONIZED RICE IN SANXING VILLAGE SITES, JINTAN

 

WANG, Genfu, Institute of Archaeology, Nanjing Museum, Nanjing, PR CHINA

(Agricultural Archaeology 1998(1): 263-4. Trans. by Yu Chen; ed. by B. Gordon)

 

        Sanxing Village sites in Jintan between Tai Basin and Yangtze Basin's Ningzhen Upland are only 6 m AMSL. They are in Jintan City, Xigang County, Jiangsu Province. With gentle topography, fertility and good drainage, comfortable climate and changing seasons, it is the "home of fish and rice". These well- preserved sites cover 50,000 sq. m, with a tomb area of 20,000 sq. m.

 

        To explore ties between Tai Lake and Ningzhen cultures, plus Neolithic growth in Yangtze Basin, the Nanjing Museum Archaeology Institute had 4 sequential excavations in 1993-1996 under authority of the China National Heritage Bureau. The 450 sq. m excavation had >500 tombs, 3 houses, >40 ashpits of different Neolithic periods and >2,000 artifacts. It is crucial that many carbonized rice samples from early levels provide new data on several important in-depth studies, e.g.s, ancient Yangtze Basin culture, Neolithic human osteology, rice cultivation, origin of agriculture, etc. Site locations are special, as few preliminary studies occurred in this region of complex cultures. Excavation shows Tai Lake and Ningzhen cultural traits, plus ancient contacts and ties with other places. Sites are Mid and Late Majiabang and Early Songze culture, C14 dating 6,500-5,500 years ago.

 

        Of 5 layers, more tombs are in 2nd, 3rd and 4th layers, with houses and many ashpits in 5th layer, the earliest in Sanxing Village sites. 100-180 cm D, 40-80 cm deep ashpits were filled with soft dark-grey soil with many organics. Flotation showed many carbonized rice grains resembling indica, but japonica cannot be excluded. As few carbonized grains occur after soil flotation around the ashpits, some questions occur: Is there a pattern between cultivation and ashpits? Or were they part of cultivated paddies? We can only guess because their area is small and awaits future work. Other agricultural artifacts include mussel hooks, large perforated stone axes, multi-perforated stone blades, sharpeners, etc., all showing original division of labor. Domestic animal bone includes pig, cow, dog, goat, chickens, etc., reflecting extra food and semi-sedentery life style when supplemented by fishing, as seen in clay netsinkers, bone fish-darts and hooks. As >600 skeletons are in a fraction of the tomb area, tombs must >20,000, their number showing a large living population; i.e., a great rise in Mid-Late 6,000 year-old Majiangbang which needed cultivation, as fishing and gathering were limited. Ancient civilization was based on developed agriculture.

 

        Sanxing Village sites represent an important recent archaeological study in Jiangsu, their size and good preservation, with many artifacts and tombs, very unusual and remarkable for this period in Yangtze Basin and incomparable with tribal graves. With more excavation, studies of Sanxing Village sites and cemetery may be crucial to the study of Yangtze Basin early civilization and agricultural origins.

 

References

 

China Relics, Sept. 22, 1996, pp.1 & 3

Wenhui Newspaper, Oct. 8, 1996. p.5

Guangming Daily, Jan. 3, 1997, p.1