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by TANG JIGEN (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences)
© Regents of the University of California, 2010
The topic today is Anyang archaeology in the twenty-first century. I intend to talk about more than just new discoveries alone. I shall also talk about what questions we are now interested in in Chinese archaeology, what new knowledge we can learn from archaeology data, and what methodology we are using for archaeological studies in China.
Before I start, I also would like to say something about the Shang state in Chinese history. As Professor Lothar von Falkenhausen mentioned just now, the Shang state is famous in Chinese history, as the Shang culture was the earliest to have left written records. The material remains of the Shang civilization are basically concentrated in what is today the province of Henan province and the surrounding area. This map does not represent political territory but instead shows the distribution of the remains of the material culture . However, the political territory has some connection to the distribution of remains, of course: these two elements make up the Shang. The Shang dynasty lasted from the sixteenth century BC till the year 1046 BC.
What is today the city of Anyang is the place where the oracle bones with inscriptions were discovered. Excavation started in Anyang in 1928, so archaeological history in Anyang has been very long. Fieldwork excavation in Anyang has never stopped since the establishment of contemporary China. In 1976, a very wealthy tomb was discovered in Anyang. It was discovered by Professor Jing, who was also my Master's [degree] supervisor.
Now I'm going to talk about Anyang archaeology in the past ten years through a discussion of ten different sites. First of all, we have done some research on environmental issues. If you really want to learn about a particular site, you need to try to understand the natural background first. We then organized a regional survey around the area of the modern city of Anyang. Anyang is located on the top of this land. We made a geological section by cutting into this area, which helped us understand the geological situation . We also took samples from the soil of the spot where the Shang capital was located. We took the samples to the laboratory and dated them and also conducted some pollen studies . Finally, we located Shang-period farmlands, like at this level. The color of the soil seems darker than the soil in modern times. Now we really know about the surface of the farmland [5, 6].
Secondly, I want to talk about the Anyang's pattern of settlement as revealed by archaeology. We started a survey project in 1997. The region we covered in this survey was huge. This is the luoyang spade , which is widely used by archaeologists because it is very effective. We use this tool to drill into the soil and take samples out . If we carefully observe the soil, we can make some interpretations regarding the remains buried underground. For example, if the soil sample looks like this , this is an indication of rammed earth. This could the presence of an architectural structure, or perhaps a tomb. However, if the soil sample looks like this , it should be from somewhere near a coffin. This equipment helps us a lot when we do various archaeological surveys.
|7. Coring with the Luoyang spade||8. Core sample|
|9. Rammed earth||10. Soil from near a coffin|
The final outcome of the regional survey tells us the settlement pattern in the Anyang region. This is in the so-called middle period of the Shang dynasty. This is a map of the distribution of settlements along the Huan River Valley dating back to the Late Shang period. If we compare the two periods, there is no big difference . There is one big core, which tells us of a two-level structure. That means there is only one political and economic center, with the surrounding regions dotted with smaller settlements. Another important outcome after doing this regional survey for years is a new map of the Shang capital. This map shows us what the capital looked like during the Shang period in Anyang .