|27 July 2004
Inner Mongolia yields new discoveries
More than 80 archeological experts are participating in an international conference in Chifeng, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, to exchange the latest information on Hongshan, a prehistoric site.
Relics excavated at the site originated around 5000 BCE to 6500 BCE. Now a part of Chifeng City, Hongshan was discovered in 1935 and some of the relics found there have led archeologists to conclude that the heads of Chinese dragons may have been inspired by boars in addition to horses and cattle.
Primitive people developed the tradition of dragon worship and they revered important food sources such as pigs, deer, birds and snakes, said Tian Guanglin, an archeologist with Liaoning Normal University. The dragon image coalesced into animal-head and snake-body in the Hongshan cultural period and remained unchanged until the Han dynasty, nearly 4,000 years later. Chinese dragon worship in the prehistoric age varied by region: the boar-head dragon in northern China, the snake-head-human-body dragon in central China and the crocodile-head dragon in eastern China.
Dragon images from Hongshan are the earliest standard image of dragons discovered in China, said Tian. The largest and most vivid discovery is a jade boar-head dragon about 26 centimeters long and bent like the letter "C." It has a snake's body and a boar's head with a tight-lipped snout and bulging eyes, said Liu Guoxiang, an archeologist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Many pig bones were found buried with human remains at Hongshan sites, indicating that the animal may have symbolized prosperity, said Sarah M. Nelson, an archeologist with the University of Denver in the United States.
Also a focus of discussion at the conference is a recent discovery on the nearby Xiaohexi site, about 8,500 years old - the earliest prehistoric civilization site discovered in China's northeast. Located at Aohan Banner in Inner Mongolia, the site contained smaller primitive villages, with buildings constructed partly underground. The residents had learned how to polish stone tools, according to Liu Guoxiang of the Research Institute of Archeology under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "The mystery of the Neolithic Xiaohexi culture has begun to be solved. More than 300 artifacts - including various pottery mugs and vases as well as bone and stone tools - have been discovered," Liu said.
The artifacts include a five-centimeter tall clay rendering of a human face. The earliest of its kind in the northeastern region, it might have been used for worship, Liu reckoned. Typical stone tools at the Xiaohexi site included tools with holes or indentations at the center. "Only tests and experiments can explain the use of these stone tools, as different scratches would be left by wood and meat cutting and mud digging," said Yan Wenming of Peking University.
Sources: Xinhua News Agency, China.org (27 July 2004)
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