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Archaeo News 

26 November 2005
Decoding the origin of Chinese civilization

An archaeological project is expected to outline the chronology in the prehistoric millennium from 4,500 years ago to 3,500 years ago to decode the origin of Chinese civilization.
     The government-backed project, called "Pre-research on the Origin of the Chinese Civilization," was launched in June 2004 with an aim to work out the chronology of the Yao, Shun, Yu periods and the Xia Dynasty, said Wang Wei, deputy director of the Archaeological Institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Zhengzhou, Henan Province.
     In the next five years, archaeologists will study the Yangshao Culture, represented by painted pottery, in Henan Province and the civilization in the late Western Zhou Dynasty (1,100 BCE-771 BCE) along the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, Wang said.
     Though boasting 5,000 years of civilization, the widely-acknowledged beginning of the Chinese civilization with historical records could be dated back to the Shang Dynasty (1,600 BCE-1,100 BCE) thanks to the discovery of the oracle bones.  With the inscriptions on the oracle bones, the earliest characters in China, archaeologists outlined what the society was like in the Shang Dynasty. But there are still 1,000 years unaccounted for in China's 5,000-year civilization, making it essential for the archaeologists to find out what the pre-Shang society was like.
     For the project, archaeologists designated six major sites, including five in Henan Province and the other in neighboring Shanxi Province. The five sites in Henan include the Neolithic Xipo site in Lingbao County, Wangchenggang in Dengfeng, Xinzhai in Xinmi County, Erlitou in Yanshi County and Dashigu in Zhengzhou. The other was the Taosi in Xiangfen, a city in Shanxi. The six sites were all large-scale towns in prehistoric China.

Sources: People's Daily Online (25 November 2005), Shanghai Daily (26 November 2005)

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