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14 May 2005
Archaeologists found a large Neolithic site in China

Dozens of prehistoric states might have been developing in eastern China as early as 5,000 years ago, thousands of years before the birth of the first textually attested state that existed in Xia Dynasty (2100 BCE-1600 BCE), said a Chinese-US archaeological research team.
     The presumption was based on a decade-long regional survey and excavation in Rizhao, a coastal city in east China's Shandong Province. Archaeologists with the team are almost sure they have identified the ruins of a prehistoric state dating back between 3,000 BCE and 2,200 BCE. The population of the state was roughly 63,000, and the size of its capital might have an area as large as one million square meters, said Fang Hui, a member of the team and professor in the archaeology department at the Shandong University based in Jinan, the provincial capital.
     The archaeological team began the regional survey at Rizhao in 1995. They had found a Neolithic site, the Liangchengzhen site, that could date back to 2,600 BCE at 30cm below the surface of farmland in the outskirts of Rizhao, covering an area of one million square meters. But they said pottery sheds were spread around an area of 2.56 million square meters. Fang Hui said the site was believed to be the capital of the ancient state and was secured by three layers of defense walls. The inner wall enclosed an area of more than 200,000 square meters, which scholars believed was a political center at the time. "Our survey data do show a clear settlement hierarchy. Liangchengzhen is the largest site, and there are many smaller sites clustered near it," Dr. Underhill said. "It is possible that leaders controlled the flow of prestigious pottery vessels in the region. Probably most of these vessels were made at Liangchengzhen, since it appears the quality of the clay in the region is better than elsewhere, and the greatest variety of fancy vessels is at this site," she added.
     Archaeologists identified the remains of about 40 ancient houses shaped like circles, squares, and rectangles, with remains of stoves and doorsteps inside. They also found over 50 rectangle-shaped tombs, scattered around the formal residential area. Thousands of excavated pottery sheds are thought to have been parts of cooking or drinking vessels. Other excavated relics included hunting tools such as stone chisels and arrowheads, spinning tools and medical instruments. Fang Hui said such prehistoric states might also have existed in the eastern Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces.
     Research findings indicated the society in parts of China underwent dramatic changes in the late Neolithic period some 4,000years ago, Fang Hui said. However, the research team had to find enough evidence to prove that social hierarchies actually characterized the prehistoric social systems.

Source: Xinhua News Agency (11 May 2005)

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