Xinzhai Ruins Confirmed as Xia Dynasty City

Two years of archaeological research at the Xinzhai Ruins of Xinmi City, in central China's Henan Province, has borne fruit. Scientists have basically confirmed this was a large city with three moats and grand buildings in the early part of the Xia Dynasty (c.2100 BC - c.1600 BC). It is the first time that a walled city dating from the Xia Dynasty has been found, providing new materials for research on the period.

Researcher Zhao Chunqing of the Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, is in charge of the dig. He says that the city at the Xinzhai Ruins was a typical community of the later period of primitive society and that it served as a link between the Longshan and Xia Dynasty cultures.

The city covered a total area of 1 million square meters, with three layers of defense works: the outer moat, city wall and inner moat. The central part was lined with large buildings. The east and north city walls were built against a natural gully using fill and rammed earth, while the river running outside the west wall was manmade. About 220 meters beyond the north city wall was a natural ditch. Enhanced by manpower, it became the outer moat, extending 1,500 meters from east to west. It was 6 to 14 meters wide and 3 to 4 meters deep. Only the west, north and east sides of the inner moat, which once encircled the city, still exist.

In the central part of the city, archaeologists found a large building foundation, over 50 meters from east to west and 14.5 meters from north to south. Sections of rammed-earth walls, pillar holes and baked earth were excavated. Other articles found include bronze utensil fragments, a vessel lid with designs similar to those on the bronze plates of the Erlitou culture and the foot of an earthen utensil bearing patterns resembling dragons. The quality and style of the artifacts indicate that aristocrats once inhabited the building.

Last year, Chinese archaeologists found a large building foundation in the Erlitou Ruins at Yanshi, also in Henan Province, which they have dated to the latter part of the Xia Dynasty.

Since the discovery of Xinzhai, archaeologists have unearthed another Xia city site at Dashigu, a suburb of Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan. Because of its strategic location, archaeologists believe that it may have been a garrison city or capital of a subordinate kingdom of the Xia Dynasty.

The excavation of the Xinzhai ruins is an important component of the Preliminary Studies for Tracing the Source of Ancient Chinese Civilization, a key scientific project of the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001 - 2005).

The project focuses on 11 topics pertaining to the source, formation and early development of Chinese civilization. One of them is research on social structure as reflected by the settlement of western Henan Province and southern Shanxi Province from the period of the Longshan culture to the early Xia Dynasty. Archaeologists working on this segment of the project are studying the Guchengzhai ruins and Xinzhai ruins of Xinmi City and the Wangchenggang ruins of Dengfeng City, all in Henan Province; and the Taosi ruins of Shanxi Province.

( by Li Jinhui, March 29, 2004)

4,000 year-old City Excavated in Zhengzhou

Archaeologists have confirmed that the Dashigu cultural relics of the Xia Dynasty (21 century B.C-16 century B.C.) in the suburb of Zhengzhou, capital of Central China's Henan Province, date to a large city site of the middle and later Erlitou Culture, part of the Bronze Age from 21 century B.C. to 17 century B.C.

Covering an area of 510,000 square meters, the Dashigu city site lies near Mangshan Mountain and the Yellow River.

"The position of the ancient city is of great strategic importance, so we infer that it may be a military city or capital of a subordinate kingdom of the Xia Dynasty," said Wang Wenhua, a research member with the Zhengzhou cultural relics archaeological research institute.

From March 2002 to December 2003, Zhengzhou cultural relics archaeological research institute excavated the Dashigu city site, during which an area of 540 square meters was unearthed.

The flat rectangular city site consists of two parts: the city wall and the moat.

Most parts of the city wall were discovered nearly one meter below the earth's surface.

"Relics of the city wall were composed of several soil layers, showing that the wall had been renewed or restored many times before," said Wang.

The two moats of 2-2.8 meters deep were located parallel with each other.

Foundation remains, tombs, ash pits and ash ditches and a large amount of other remains were discovered inside the city site, mainly of the second, the third and the early fourth phase of the Erlitou Culture.

Archaeologists discovered a large number of fragments of earthen drainpipes in the ash ditches. "It shows that larger construction foundations must exist in the middle of the city site, which is to be further excavated," said Wang.

Another important discovery is a ring moat of the early Shang Dynasty (16 century B.C.-11 century B.C.), which lies between the city wall and the moats of the Xia Dynasty, and in parallel with the Xia moats.

Abundant remains of the Early Shang Dynasty were discovered inside the ring moat, "It shows that in the early Shang Dynasty, the city site remained an important residential settlement," said Wang.

"The Dashigu city site of the Xia Dynasty is the only city sitewhich can be surely defined as the Erlitou culture type discovered so far in China, filling the archaeological blanks in discoveries of city sites of the Xia Dynasty," Wang said.

"As abundant historical remains of the Xia and Shang dynasties were discovered in the city site, this discovery will be of great significance to the research on the relations between the Xia and the Shang dynasties, which is still unclear," said Wang.

(Xinhua News Agency March 22, 2004)

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