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Excavations lead to valuable insight

Source: China Daily Global | Updated : 2023-07-12


A Shang Dynasty stone spear from the Zhuyuanling site in Guangzhou's Huangpu district. CHINA DAILY

Many cultural relics of the Shang Dynasty (c. 16th century-11th century BC) were recently unearthed at the Zhuyuanling site in the Huangpu district of Guangzhou, Guangdong province, providing archaeologists with extremely valuable historical materials to explore and advance the study of the ancient city during the pre-Qin period (before 221 BC).

According to a statement released by the Guangzhou Municipal Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology, the discovery clearly shows that from the late Neolithic age to the early Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24), the area comprising the towns of Jiufo, Zhenlong and Luogang in the eastern part of Guangzhou was an important cultural corridor between the lower reaches of the Beijiang and Dongjiang rivers, two tributaries of the Pearl River, playing an important role in the development history of early civilization along the Pearl River Delta.

It demonstrates the rich cultural deposits of the southern metropolis, which has a history spanning thousands of years, it says.

"The discovery of Shang Dynasty cultural relics at Zhuyuanling site has not only helped fill the gap of Shang Dynasty cultural remains in the China-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City area, but has also provided very important and valuable material and evidence for reconstructing the early history in the northeast part of Guangzhou," the statement says.

Archaeologists have launched three consecutive phases of excavation work on the Zhuyuanling site, with an excavation area of more than 13,500 square meters, between May last year, and June, the statement notes.


An ivory zhang discovered at the site. CHINA DAILY

Archaeological exploration and excavation have confirmed that the distribution area of Shang historical remains at the Zhuyuanling site totaled about 80,000 sq m, with its core area being more than 15,000 sq m, it says.

It has now become the largest group of Shang Dynasty historical artifacts confirmed by archaeologists in the delta region.


Excavators dig for cultural relics at the Zhuyuanling site. CHINA DAILY

Li Yan, a scholar of cultural studies and a senior archaeologist with the Guangdong Provincial Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology, says site excavators have found production tools and finished products, including grindstones, stone tools with cut marks, as well as weapons, such as dagger-axes, ivory zhang (a ritual tool), and other ritual tools.

"From this point of view, the stone production site was not an ordinary one, as the use of these products was not at the manufacturing site itself, but to supply other relatively high-level settlements in the area," he says.

The ivory zhang in Guangzhou must have come from Central China and later spread to the areas at the mouth of the Pearl River and the northern part of Vietnam, Li says.

The Shang Dynasty items have become a historical record of the sinicization process of the region surrounding Guangzhou, known as Lingnan, according to Li.

The Lingnan area, as part of China, was not started by Qinshihuang (259-210 BC), China's first emperor, but much earlier, says Li.

"The relics unearthed at Zhuyuanling site have shown that, historically and culturally, the process of sinicization of the Lingnan region started very early, and the early Shang Dynasty was a very important period for the process, with these dagger-axes and ivory zhang as carriers," he says.

"These dagger-axes and ivory zhang had obviously been localized, and only after localization could they spread outward," he says.


Cultural relics of the Shang Dynasty have come to light at the Zhuyuanling site in Guangzhou's Huangpu district. CHINA DAILY

Li said he believed more historical and cultural remains would be found and more relics be unearthed in the following months, with the rapid economic development in the eastern part of Guangzhou.

Meanwhile, archaeological excavations at the Zhuyuanling site have, so far, uncovered nearly 1,500 Shang-era ash pits of different shapes and sizes.

Some of the pits, with regular shapes and depths exceeding 1 meter, should be classified as storage pits or pits for sacrificial purposes.

Excavators have also discovered more than 1,800 column holes of different sizes and depths that are considered to be related to stilt-style architecture or wood frame architecture.

Archaeologists have also found 25 pits of varying lengths and depths on the site. And they might be related to the natural or artificial water supply and drainage in the production process and daily life of our ancestors, archaeologists say.

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