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A buried past: five thousand years of (pre) history on the Jing-Wei floodplain

A buried past: five thousand years of (pre) history on the Jing-Wei floodplain The Jing-Wei Floodplain, located in Shaanxi, China, has been home to various groups of people over the last 5000 years. Drawing together evidence from archaeology, paleobotany, geomorphology, climate sciences, and history, this paper provides a longue durée study of the local (pre)history of human occupation in this area with a special focus on human adaptation strategies and environmental history. In particular, the study summarizes and evaluates archaeological and geomorphological field research conducted over the last ten years and connects it with often overlooked local historical accounts and recent climate research in the Wei River Valley and observations on recent economic developments and their impact on both the environment and the people living in it. In spite of a rather long hiatus in occupation from the second century BCE to the twelfth century CE, the evidence shows that there are close similarities in human-environment relations and even continuities into the modern period. Though being a highly localized study, this paper can serve as an example for how such longue durée studies may be conducted in other regions, and it provides some suggestions for future field and laboratory research. . . . . . Keywords Longue durée Northern China Human-environment interaction Archaeology Environmental history Yangguanzhai 1 Introduction tributary of the Wei River and flows in from the north. More than ten years of fieldwork have revealed hundreds of features This paper addresses the environmental history and human covering an area close to one square kilometer (Fig. 1). Located adaptation strategies of a local community in Shaanxi 陕西, near one of China’s largest and most active river systems, the site China, over the past 5000 years. This small-scale, nuanced was greatly affected by its immediate environment. Over the last study is meant to shed some light on the relationship between ten years, about 20,000 square meters of excavation area have humans and their environment in this location but also provide been exposed at YGZ, allowing some insights into the site struc- an example for longue durée studies in other locations and ture, its history, and relationship with other Yangshao sites in the some suggestions for future field and laboratory research. Wei River Valley (Shaanxi 2009; Shaanxi sheng 2009; Shaanxi This paper focuses in particular on the Jing 泾 Wei 渭 flood- sheng and Baishui xian 2011; Shaanxi sheng and Zhong Mei plain around the archaeological site of Yangguanzhai 杨官寨 2018;Wangand Lee 2010). (YGZ), a large mid- to late Yangshao 仰韶 period (3500– 3000 cal. BCE) village located in the central Wei River Valley on the first terrace of the Jing River. The Jing is the largest 2 Prehistoric life on the Jing-Wei floodplain The first known settlers of YGZ were farmers who lived in a * Anke Hein village, ca. 4000–3000 BCE. The main settlement (usually anke.hein@arch.ox.ac.uk referred to as Beiqu 北区, northernsection)issurroundedby Ye Wa a trapezoidal ditch, averaging 2 to 4 m deep and 6 to 9 m wide, yedawa@gmail.com the widest part reaching 13 m. This imposing ditch is the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, CA, The ditch has been only partially excavated on the east and west side. The USA north and south sides of the ditch are unclear in their dimensions because University of Oxford, Oxford, UK modern buildings and a paved road prevent further survey and excavation. 2 asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 Fig. 1 Jing-Wei Floodplain in Shaanxi showing the location of the Yangguanzhai Neolithic settlement, Ming cemeteries mentioned in the text, and the Zhengguo Canal (after Shaanxi sheng and Zhong Mei 2018: Fig. 1) largest feature of the site, with a total length of approximately measuring 530 m from east to west, and 170 m from north to 1945 m. The area enclosed by the ditch is close to 24 ha in size south. Archaeologists have identified 343 Miaodigou tombs (Fig. 2). (Shaanxi sheng 2018a) and 21 Ming tombs (Shaanxi sheng Outside the southern portion of the ditch, to the southwest 2018b;Yang 2018)(Fig. 3). of the Beiqu, is another settlement named Nanqu 南区 (south section) which borders on an ancient gully or river channel 2.1 Neolithic cemetery located on its southern side which contained thick sand de- posits (personal communication by Zhang Pengcheng, The Neolithic cemetery contained only single burials. Tomb Shaanxi Academy of Archaeology, 2012). It is unclear how sizes varied little, the graves usually being just large enough to the two settlements were related chronologically since a mod- hold the body. Based on the preliminary archaeological report ern road cuts between them. As far as ceramic assemblages are of the cemetery published so far, only 3% of the excavated concerned, the ditched area of Beiqu and the northern part of tombs (11 out of 343) contained ceramic vessels, usually only Nanqu contained mostly Yangshao ceramics of Miaodigou 庙 one or two ceramic vessels each, including cups, jars, or ba- 底沟 style (ca. 3500–3300 BCE), while the rest of Nanqu is sins (Shaanxi sheng 2018a). Only one tomb held an amphora, characterized by Yangshao ceramics of Banpo 半坡 IV style laid next to the body. A few tomb occupants had personal (ca. 3300–3000 BCE), the latest phase of the Yangshao peri- ornaments such as bone hairpins, beads, bracelet, or pendants. od. So far, the stratigraphy at both sections reveals no overlap If differences in tomb size and tomb furnishing are an indica- of the two cultural phases, and it is difficult to say how the tor of social hierarchy, then the YGZ cemetery suggests a transition of ceramic styles took place at YGZ, i.e., if there society established on egalitarian principles with no differen- was a temporal rupture, abrupt transition, or gradual transfor- tiation by age, sex, or social status, at least in death. mation (Shaanxi sheng 2009). In addition to the prominent ditches, the features discovered at 2.2 Settlement layout YGZ include semi-subterranean dwellings, other types of hous- es, postholes, hearths, kilns, child burials, pits of various types, In size, the area within the ditch at YGZ is about twenty times ditches for water drainage, and there is also a single pond. larger than any of the earlier Neolithic sites in the Wei River Among these, pits account for over 80% of all excavated Valley, such as Banpo (Zhongguo 1963) or Jiangzhai 姜寨 Neolithic features. Historic remains and artifacts were also found, (Xi’an et al. 1988), which are estimated to have measured including tombs from various periods, water canals, a brick and about 5 ha. Deposits at Banpo and Jiangzhai indicate that tile kiln, and trash deposits, which will be discussed below. the two sites were “occupied discontinuously but repetitively” About 400 m east of the ditched settlement is a Miaodigou (Chang 1987: 114). YGZ presents a different picture. period cemetery. Surveys show that it extends over about 9 ha, Although overlapping features discovered in various parts of asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 3 Fig. 2 Plan of the Yangguanzhai site (courtesy of Wang Weilin) YGZ reflect house repairs or house reconstruction in the same on the western end of the Wei River Valley and the spot, the cultural layers in the residential areas are relatively Quanhucun 泉护村 site on its easternmost extension (Baoji thin and homogeneous compared to the thick deposits of shi et al. 1993; Shaanxi sheng et al. 2014). Both had a layout Banpo and Jiangzhai, which include different cultural compo- similar to that of YGZ and the number of pits at these sites is nents from late Neolithic to Bronze Age. Nevertheless, de- much higher than that of any other type of feature, as well. posits in deep features such as the ditches and pits are thick, At YZG, various types of features were found on both sides of indicating intense impact of both human activity and nature. the ditches, either close to the edge or right on the edge of the One similarity shared by YGZ and earlier sites is the spatial ditch. This suggests that the ditches were neither used for defen- separation of the living and the dead; in all cases, the ceme- sive purposes nor symbolic in nature (Fig. 4). At present, there is teries were outside the residential area. Other than that, YGZ too little data to be entirely sure about the function of the ditch; presents a very different layout. Excavations so far revealed furthermore, the function may have changed over time, starting no central plaza like those in the early sites where houses or for instance as a settlement demarcation that may have become clusters of houses surrounded an open area in the middle, and less relevant in later periods when the settlement grew beyond there were no large communal houses. An important feature of what was originally envisioned. At least for part of the usage Banpo and Jiangzhai is the separation of the residential area period, however, it seems highly likely that the large ditches were from its ceramic workshops, but that is not the case at YGZ. utilized for water/flood management. Mathew Fox’s (2014) There, houses and ceramic workshops were intermingled, sit- study on the ditch formation process indicates that overland flow ting side by side. This reminds us of the Fulinbao 福临堡 site formed the bottom unit of the ditch deposits, and that flood water Fig. 3 The ditched (residential) area and the cemetery at YGZ (courtesy of Wang Weilin) 4 asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 Fig. 4 YGZ: G8–4, inside / outside of the ditch (courtesy of Zhang Wei) Fig. 5 The “pond” and the drainage ditch (G7) (courtesy of Yang Liping) was the major force responsible for forming the deposits above. Jennifer Kielhofer’s(2013) research on the reconstruction of the the ditch. In several places, there are layers of pottery sherds in paleoenvironment and Hu Ke’s(2017) study on ancient river the ditch, as for instance recorded near the “West Gate” of the courses demonstrate that the site was flooded numerous times trenched area. Many of these sherds are restorable (Shaanxi during and after the Neolithic period. These indicators suggest 2009;Wangand Lee 2010). In Nanqu, a development that water/flood control must have been on the minds of the YGZ postdating the ditched area, archaeologists found several kilns inhabitants when building the ditches. and 13 cave dwellings arrayed along an ancient cliff, many of Other features that may have been related to water manage- them in alternating sequence of kilns and dwellings (Fig. 6). ment include a potential reservoir and drainage ditches. In the Some of these cave dwellings differed from other houses in central part of the ditched area, on a mild slope, is a large, the number of hearths found inside: one contained three, an- irregular-shaped, sunken spot measuring close to 340 square other two. The excavators believe that this area was devoted to meters with a depth from 2.8 to 3.1 m (Shaanxi sheng 2018). pottery making and that the cave dwellings next to the kilns Two step-like platforms were found next to the bank, which served as working spaces, but they do not say why more than are thought to have been footsteps used when fetching water one hearth should be needed in some of them. Among the (Shaanxi sheng 2018). Signs of cutting at the bottom of the many pits in this area, one (H402) contained a group of com- bank are understood to be the result of removing silt. More plete ceramic vessels, including 22 amphoras, 19 jars, 16 convincing evidence is a small channel found at the lower end bowls, 9 basins, 5 urns, some unfired pottery, and one object of the potential reservoir which led to a densely occupied area that investigators believe to be a potter’s wheel (Fig. 7). of houses, kilns, child burial, and pits (Fig. 5). It seems that this large settlement had no “center” or “central As mentioned above, hui keng 灰坑, literally “ash pits,” place.” The clusters of houses scattered around the site likewise generally interpreted as garbage dumps, account for over showed no indication of settlement planning. The buildings were 80% of the features excavated at YGZ and other places in orientated in a variety of directions, and pits were scattered ev- the Wei River Valley such as Quanhucun mentioned above. erywhere in between. The anthropogenic deposits at the site con- These pits have generally attracted little interest as objects of sist mostly of household waste, including fragmented building research; however, their history can be complex as they may materials of daub, burnt earth, residential matting or floors of have gone through several incarnations of usage such as animal enclosures, organic waste, and a large amount of broken dwellings or storage pits before having served as dumps and or otherwise unusable ceramics (Fox 2013). Waste associated then closed after having been filled with trash. So far, only one with pottery productions were found in many places, some of such pit, H85, has been excavated and researched in great them deformed pottery but mostly vitrified chunks from broken detail, and we will discuss it further below due to its complex kilns, and it has thus been suggested that the site may have been a history (Shaanxi sheng and Zhong Mei 2018). ceramic production center, though further excavation work is In addition to over 49 houses, 896 so-called ash pits, 9 necessary to test this hypothesis (Hein et al. forthcoming). The ditches, and 32 urn burials, a total of 26 kilns were found in two well-preserved kilns found in the northeast section have Beiqu and Nanqu. Several kilns were dug into the banks of intact fire boxes and fire chambers, where the walls show the provenience of the vitrified materials. Household hearths These numbers do not include kilns excavated after 2009 which have not yet been reported, or features indicating open firing without kilns which have not Nearly identical “potter’swheels” have also been found at Banpo and Anban been systematically collated yet. (Kaogu 1963). asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 5 Fig. 6 Cave dwellings and kilns along the ancient cliff, YGZ, south section (photos by Ye Wa) produced no vitrified materials despite repeated firing, indicating that the temperature was not high enough for vitrification. 2.3 Special-purpose buildings Fig. 7 Ceramics and potter’s wheel from YGZ (photos curtesy of Yang The houses at YGZ were constructed with wattle and daub sim- Liping) ilar to other Neolithic dwellings in the Wei River Valley. Largely missing at YGZ are large houses of square or rectangular shape dirt making a new living surface, covered again with garbage, as they have been found in earlier or contemporary sites in the followed by a new living surface, and so on. valley (Shaanxi sheng and Baishui xian 2011). Most houses The large number of ceramic rings found in the pit – 87 in found at YGZ were round-shaped, above ground or semi- total – suggest that it may have been a communal dwelling for subterranean dwellings. Some house floors were covered with mothers and their infants. It has long been speculated that calcium carbonate nodules. House sizes varied, the large ones Yangshao ceramic rings were used as bracelets, and this was having a diameter of close to 9 m. One of the many pits mentioned above, H85, was charac- finally proved by the discovery of a cemetery at YGZ were ceramic rings were indeed found on the wrists of many tomb terized by a large number of layers with a complex deposition history and two platforms on the bottom (Fig. 8) (Shaanxi occupants, both male and female, adults and children. They serve as diagnostic artifacts to differentiate age groups: small- sheng and Zhong Mei 2018). H85 had an oval opening and er sizes for children and larger ones for adults. Several skele- measured 4 by 2.3 m on the top with a diameter of 3.85 m on tons, including a child, had rings on their wrists upon excava- the bottom and a depth of 3.2 m. Careful excavation and tion. In H85, a total of 87 ceramic rings were found, 44 of testing of the deposits of this pit led us to suggest that it was them from the bottom layers, all of them ranging from 3.3 to used as a subterranean dwelling for a special purpose. A 6cmindiameter(Shaanxisheng andZhongMei 2018). similar sized pit found in Quanhu had a hearth at the bottom and postholes around the pit opening and a staircase along the Modern-day bangles for women usually measure around 6.5 cm in diameter, suggesting that the ones found in H85 pit wall (Shaanxi sheng et al. 2018). The internal deposition layers were similar in character and contents to those of H85. were worn by adult women or men and children. While the rings in the upper layers were larger in diameter (mostly be- The primary deposit at the bottom of H85 consisted of ash, sand-size charcoal, charred seeds, animal bones, shells, and tween 5.5 and 7.7 cm, only 11 measuring 5 cm or less), of the 44 rings from the bottom layers, 36 (82%) had an inner diam- restorable ceramic vessels. Cooking pot lids and serving eter equal to or smaller than 5 cm; of these, 12 were equal to or bowls were leaning on the wall upon excavation. Above, the smaller than 4 cm (Shaanxi sheng and Zhong Mei 2018: pit contained alternating bands of grey and brownish colored Table 1) (Fig. 9). Additionally, an infant skeleton was found deposits that were household garbage paved over with fresh in a structure right next to H85 and three burials of older 4 children were found within 30 m east of H85, supplying fur- Research on this feature is still ongoing and micromorphological samples ther support to the hypothesis of H85 being a dwelling for taken from the bottom of the pit still await analysis. 6 asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 Fig. 8 Pit H85 (after Shaanxi sheng and Zhong Mei 2018: Fig. 2) asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 7 developed agriculture and a sedentary way of life enhanced the inhabitants’ familiarity with their surroundings and vege- tation. A concentration of herbs, including Xiazhicao 夏至草 (Lagopsis supina), Tuchuanghua 秃疮花 (Dicranostigma leptopodum) and Nihucai 泥胡菜 (Hemistepta lyrate) were found at the bottom layers of the pit (Fig. 10). All of these are commonly used in Chinese medicine today for treatment of gynecological disorders and ailments, bringing down a fe- ver, staunching bleeding from wounds, and even insect con- trol. Xiazhicao is widely used to treat gynecological illness of amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, irregular menstruation, excessive postpartum hemorrhage, postpartum uterine contraction and other postpartum related ailments. Tuchuanghu, a Papaveraceae, is able to bring down fever, help with detumes- cence, analgesia, sore throat, and lymphatic tuberculosis, and it is also used in insect control. Nihucai is used to treat all kinds of sores, hemorrhoids, and wounds (Tang et al. forthcoming). Without more extensive archaeobotanical stud- ies of other parts of the site, it is still too early to draw a conclusion that the YGZ residents had already acquired knowledge of certain herbs and their medical effect. Yet, a concentration of such herbs with similar function in treatment found in the bottom of the pit implies that the inhabitants of the dwelling had certain demand for them. As elsewhere in the Wei River Valley during this period, pigs were raised for meat consumption. At YGZ, the slaughtering age for pigs was around two years or younger (Hu et al. 2011; Shaanxi sheng and Zhong Mei 2018). Other domesticated animals include chicken, perhaps ox, and dog; however, among the remains of domesticated animals, pigs Fig. 9 Ceramic rings in situ (above) and individual photo (below) (cour- were by far the most common. The two published sets of tesy of Yang Liping) fauna collections from YGZ are from two different locales, the “West Gate” next to the ditch and H85. They show differ- women and children. The remains of animal bones, such as ent results. This is likely due to different sampling methods fresh water turtles, yellow-cheek fish, and gold eagle, and (screening vs. non-screened), but differences in locale may plenty of domestic and wild plants as well as various kinds also be a factor. For the ditch, investigators identified 11 spe- of herbs identified via paleobotanical analysis on floatation cies; among these, domesticated pig accounts for 78% of all samples may indicate the special care that the dwellers of this bones. For H85, of the twenty identified species, pig bones pit received from the community. accounts for only 6%. However, in both places, wild animals were far more common than domestic animals: in the ditch, 63% are wild animal bones (7 out of 11 species); in H85, wild 2.4 Subsistence and medical knowledge animals account for 90% of all the recovered bones (18 out of 20 species). Flad et al.’s(2007 and 2009) study on meat con- The YGZ community subsisted on millet cultivation, pig hus- sumption in Northwest China has reached a similar conclusion bandry, wild animal hunting, fishing, and wild plant gather- for this region during the Neolithic period. ing. Systematic samples taken from one pit (H85) for paleo- botanical research show that of all identifiable charred seeds, 31% are foxtail grasses, followed by millet (27%), and le- gumes (16%) (Ma 2016;Tangetal. forthcoming). Well- The International Archaeological Field School, IFR, excavated H85. A screen with a mesh of 0.5 × 0.5 cm was used and samples were taken sepa- There was no burial equipment such as an urn for the infant body. The rately for each layer. No screen was used at the West Gate excavation. Rowan International Archeological Field School (IRF) excavated the body. Flad and his Chinese colleagues discussed this problem in Chinese archaeo- Elizabeth Berger identified the skeleton is 36–40 weeks old. logical practice in 2007 (Flad et al. 2007). Even though collecting fauna re- Micromorphological samples were taken where the skeleton was found, and mains improved somewhat since 2007, screening is still not common in many they now await analysis. archaeological sites, especially in rescue projects. 8 asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 9 Fig. 10 Paleobotanical samples from H85: 1. Schoenoplectus first terrace of the Jing River, land instability occurred (Gu mucronatus 水毛花,H85④; 2. Carex 薹草属,H85⑨;3. Corydalis et al. 2012). Nonetheless, radiocarbon dating from human bungeana 地丁草, H85.14; 4. Dicranostigma leptopodum 秃疮花, bone from the YGZ cemetery (3637–2918 cal. BCE) H85.14; 5. Lagopsis 夏至草, H85.14; 6. Perilla frutescens 紫苏, H85.14; (Shaanxi 2018a) does not exactly match the OSL dating. 7. Hemistepta lyrate泥胡菜,H85.14; 8. Asteraceae flower heads菊科头状 花序,H85.14; 9. Patrinia scabiosifolia 黄花龙牙, 2013H85②; 10. Sour Thus, although we are not certain if the abandonment of jujube 酸枣, 2013H85⑦; 11. Geraniaceae 牻牛儿苗, 2013H85④; 12. YGZ was caused by a specific flood, flood water was a key Thorn 刺状物,2013H85③; 13. Bulb front and base 鳞茎, H85.14; 14. element to consider. After the Neolithic residents left YGZ, Bulb base 鳞茎 (same as 13, enlarged), H8514; 15. Bulb, enlargement the area was deserted for over 3000 years. The eight other of internal cell structure (same as 13 and 14), H85.14; 16. Bulb 鳞茎, known Yangshao settlements along the Jing and Wei Rivers H8514; 17. Bulb 鳞茎, H85.14; 18. Bulb 鳞茎,2014H85⑨ (after Tang et al. forthcoming) in the vicinity of YGZ were abandoned, as well. Two late Neolithic Longshan 龙山 cultural sites were found on the sec- ondary terrace of the Wei River and on a knoll respectively (Guo jia wen wu ju 1998: vol. 2, 133). The next sign of human 2.5 Communication with the outside world activities at YGZ appeared only around the second century BCE, with a single sacrificial event that took place during Portable XFR analysis conducted on the clay composition of 932 the Western Han 汉 dynasty, leaving a large ceramic vessel sherds from 11 features of both Miaodigou and Banpo IV phases next to two small lambs in the ruins of the Neolithic village of YGZ was conducted in 2015 and 2016. The data seem “con- (Sino-American Field School 2012). sistent with a more homogenous clay composition in the Banpo IV period than in the earlier Miaodigou period” (Bradly et al. 2017). This is consistent with the fact that during the Banpo IV 3 Qin and Han period YGZ (fourth century BCE phase, the settlement was compressed to a much smaller space to third century CE) and ceramic production was carried out in a more centralized fashion. More notable is the fact that by “using bivariate plots, YGZ was not used as a settlement during the very long and a difference between H402 and other YGZ features in terms of eventful period from the late Neolithic to the Iron Age. Even clay is apparent” (Bradly et al. 2017). The ceramic types found in after the land stabilized and pedogenesis occurred as reflected H402 were common at sites throughout the Wei River Valley at by the soil unit above the SWDs, people did not return to the time, especially the broad-shouldered amphora with YGZ. Historically, from the fourth to third centuries BCE, scratched swirling patterns, mostly found in the vicinity of the vast area stretching from just north of the Jing and Wei present-day Xi’an (personal communication with Shao Jing, Rivers to the hills of the loess plateau (known to locals as 2019). YGZ did have other ceramic items that were likely Beishan 北山 or northern mountains) was controlled by the imported, mostly small portable items such as the white paste Qin 秦 State, and later the Qin Dynasty (Li 1984:175–189). bracelets, either plain or with red-painted patterns. So far, archae- Historians often treat the 383 BC move of the Qin capital from ological finds in the Wei River valley have not produced any Yongcheng永城 at the western end of the Wei River Valley to locally made white paste ceramics, so we conclude that they were Liyang溧阳 at the foothills of the loess plateau as the prologue imported from outside the valley, mostly likely from today’s to the unification of China some 200 years later. Not long after Henan 河南 province. that, in 349 BC, the Qin moved its capital again to Xianyang Human occupation at YGZ ended quite abruptly. The 咸阳, a fertile area in the heart of the alluvial plain of the Jing abandonment of the settlement was likely caused by floods. and the Wei. The Qin stayed there for over 144 years until When the settlement moved south and closer to the Jing River, Xiang Yu项羽 and his troops burned down the city in 206 BC. the chances for the site being flooded increased. Nine profiles YGZ sits right in the middle of the two capitals, 33 km south- of test trenches at YGZ indicate that overbank flooding oc- west of Liyang and 16 km northeast of the Qin’sXianyang curred on several occasions (Kielhofer 2013). Evidence of capital (Li 1984:175–189). slack water deposits (SWDs) found on the profile south of Critical to the transformation examined in this study was the site indicate that at the end of Mid-Holocene Climatic the construction of the Zheng Guo Canal 郑国渠 in 246 BC. Optimum, extraordinary floods occurred along the Jing and Sima Qian (first century BCE) tells the dramatic story of its Wei rivers (Gu et al. 2012;Huang et al. 2010, 2011). construction in his Shi ji 史记,or Records of the Grand Geomorphological studies show that between the lower Historian: the failed political plot, the persuasion of the hy- paleosol and the upper paleosol at YGZ, five major floods draulic engineer Zheng Guo 郑国, and the visionary Duke of occurred one after another (Gu et al. 2012; Huang et al. the Qin, all working in the end to bring the canal to comple- 2010, 2011). The OSL dates indicate several lower SWDs tion. The result was amazing: it was 300 li long, running between 4200 and 4000 BP and an upper SWD between “along the foot of the northern mountains, carrying water of 3200 and 2800 BP (Gu et al. 2012). The floods covered the the Jing to fall into the Luo 洛河 river in the east… When it 10 asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 was finished, rich silt-bearing water was led through it to archaeological excavations conducted at Yangling township irrigate more than 40,000 qing 頃 (667,000 acres) of alkali have been reported in detail (Yan et al. 2013; Yang 2011, land. The harvest from these fields attained the level of one 2014, 2017). zhong per mu亩. Thus, Guanzhong关中 became a fertile land These rapid developments during the Qin-Han period seem without recorded poor harvests. Qin became rich and power- to have spared YGZ. The result of the first (1956) and second ful, and in the end was able to conquer all the other feudal (1981–1989) nationwide cultural heritage surveys and subse- states” (Sima Qian: vol. 29, 1408). quent fieldwork in the area show no Han remains along the Archaeological surveys revealed the original dam and canal first terrace of the Jing River near YGZ, but on a higher knoll of the third century BCE as well as many later dams and canals south of the Jing River there were few (Guo jia wen wu ju from the Han to the 1930s (Qin et al. 2006)(Fig. 1). Although 1998: vol. 2, 133–134). It is plausible that concerns over the survey report could not link all the dams and canals un- flooding played a role in people staying away from YGZ equivocally with those mentioned in the histories, the surveys while the irrigated land north of YGZ seems to have been found over 30 dams and 17 water channels and identified more more attractive to them. In addition, since YGZ was so close than 20 hydraulic projects in a 10 square km area near Gukou to the political center at the time, people may not have been 谷口 in Jingyang 泾阳 County (Qin et al. 2006:Fig. 1-3). able to choose freely where to settle in this area. When con- The move of the Qin capital to the hillside above the valley crete evidence liberates us from the realm of guesswork, time in the fourth century BCE was initially a political tactic, but in had already raced to the AD fifteenth century. In other words, the end it lifted the Guanzhong agricultural economy to an for over 4000 years, YGZ left no archaeological remains. unprecedented level. By the end of the third century BCE, when the Western Han had established its capital in the valley south of the Wei River, the Jing-Wei plain had become one of 4 The Ming (1368–1644) tombs the richest areas in Han China. Population numbers boomed Within the confines of the YGZ Neolithic cemetery, archae- due to the policy of “strengthening the center and weakening the outlying areas” (qiang guan ruo zhi 强干弱枝) of the early ologists also found 21 Ming 明 dynastic period tombs (Shaanxi 2018a,Yang 2018). Among them, four had epitaphs Western Han, when the court promoted the coercive and vol- untarily relocation of the powerful feudal families to stabilize dating between 1531 and 1603 (Fig. 11). The tombs belong to at least three generations of the Zhang張 family who belonged the Han polity. In addition, mausoleum construction north of the Wei River also needed a large labor force. Ling yi 陵邑, to the local elite, tracing their ancestors back five or six gen- erations, living in three villages within less than 4 km. The mausoleum townships, were built on the secondary terraces to hold the migrant laborers. According to the Shi ji and Hanshu, epitaphs briefly traced their ancestors’ origins and family his- tory, listing the names of three villages where the family had by the beginning of the first century CE, the population of the resided and that still exist today. From the epitaphs, we learn mausoleum townships reached over 400,000 (Yu Xi 2013). One of them, Yangling 阳陵 township, was located less than that the Zhang family had lived near YGZ for over 200 years. Their forebears lived in Hancun 寒村, a port village on the 3 km across the Jing River from YGZ. According to the ca. CE 110 Gu et al. 1997汉书, household surveys of 2 CE (Song northern bank of the Jing River. Later, the family moved to Afanzhai 阿藩寨, and finally settled in Xuwucun village 徐吾 1370: 2) show that Changling 长陵 had 50,057 households and a population of 179,469; Maoling 茂陵, 60,187 house- 村 in the early Yuan 元 dynasty (AD 1260–1368) (Fig. 12). The epitaphs do not reveal the cause or dates of the moves, but holds and 277, 277 population (Ban Gu et al.: vol. 28, 1545–47). No household numbers are known for Yangling. they seem to have been unrelated to either social turmoil or natural disasters since the moves were very local. The most When the township was established, the household and pop- ulation numbers were likely lower. The results of likely reason was family partition, a common practice as members moved nearby when a family grew too large to be accommodated in the same settlement. The Zhang’s forebears were known to locals as the One zhong = 64 dou 斗, 1 dou (in the Han Dynasty) = 7.5 kg. Thus this Pontoon-Bridge Zhang 桴橋張家, as stated on the epitaph of represents a harvest of 480 kg per mu. tomb M54, since each year they built a pontoon bridge across The translation is based on Needham 1971: 283. The story was that after the Duke of Han 韓 learnt about the ambitions of the Qin, he sent the hydraulic the Jing River at Hancun, a port on the northern bank of the engineer Zheng Guo to Qin to persuade them to open a canal to link the Jing Jing River. This port is also known as Huangjiadu 黄家渡,as and the Luo Rivers. The purpose was to exhaust the Qin’s power with this mentioned in the 1541 Gaoling 高陵 gazetteer. Today’s grand public project. Later, after the Duke of Qin had been made aware of this plan, he wanted to kill Zheng Guo. Zheng Guo admitted his deceitfulness but told the Duke that “when the canal is completed, it will be of great benefit to Lu Nan吕柟 wrote the first Gaoling zhi高陵志 (Gaoling County Gazetteer) in Qin.” The Duke listened and let Zheng Guo finish the project. Joseph 1541. Two more were compiled in 1732 (the tenth year of the Yongzheng雍正 Needham has compiled a detailed analysis from the historic accounts of the reign) and 1881 (the seventh year of the Guangxu 光绪 reign). The two latest project. editions were published in 1941 and 2000. asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 11 Fig. 11 A Neolithic and historic cemetery at YGZ (courtesy of Yang Liping) Hancun is further from the Jing River, likely due to a shift in same names as two villages close to the YGZ Ming tombs, the water course to the south and erosion of the bank. and they both first appeared in the Gaoling county gazetteer Nonetheless, it is still the closest village to the river. A modern published in 1541 (Gaoling xian 2000)(Fig. 13). The charac- cement bridge was built in the year 2000. ter for the han 寒 of Hancun differs between the epitaphs and The two villages mentioned in the fourteenth century tomb modern usage (韩村), but based on location, these refer to the epitaphs, Hancun 韩村 and the Xuwucun 徐武村, bear the same village. The character of wu for the Xuwucun is also Fig. 12 Epitaph of Mr. Zhang Mianshan (1488–1560) of the Ming and his wives Shishi (1487–1541) and Gaoshi (1510–1567) 明故处士面山张公 暨配石氏高氏合葬墓志铭. He is described as chu shi 处士, denoting that he is a person with virtue who lives in seclusion and does not want to be an official or a scholar and who has not attained an office. He was the oldest son of the Zhang family. He travelled to Suzhou and Hangzhou when he was young and came to be well-known among the literate class. Following the wishes of his father, he returned home eventually and took Fig. 13 Map in the Gaoling county gazetteer showing YGZ (1524) (after over family affairs (Shaanxi sheng 2018b:22) Ma Li 1541 (2020): vol. 2, Fig. 4) 12 asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 different in the epitaphs. Three of the four epitaphs used the Sanbai Canal 三白渠.The tun tian system originated during the character wu 吾 that is used today, but one chose a different Hanperiodwithsoldiersconverting newlyconqueredlandinto character, wu 吴. The newest Gaoling gazetteer, published in farmland whose crops were used to supply the army. Later, the 2000, uses both 吾 and 吴 for Xuwucun and in the map of the tun tian system came to be applied to civilians as well, who were 1541 gazetteer, wu 吴 is printed as ju 具, likely a printing given land and farming implements in exchange for half their mistake (Gaoling xian 2000). Allinall, itishighlylikelythat harvest, which they had to give to the government (Luo et al. these all refer to the same place. The only village name that 2017). A tun tian office had been set up in the neighboring appeared in the epitaphs but not in the Ming gazetteer is county of Jingyang, which claimed 1020 qing of land (Yuan Afanzhai, the place the Zhang family moved prior to their shi vol. 60, p. 1424). At the peak of the tun tian program during final residence in Xuwucun. Afanzhai appears in a much later the latter half of the thirteenth century, under the Shaanxi Tuntian edition (1732) of the Gaoling County Gazetteer, as Afanzhai Command 陕西屯田总管府, the government claimed a total of Wangjia 阿藩寨王加, later called Jiangwangjia 酱王家, and to- 5853 qing of land from the valley and controlled over 7000 day, Jiangwang 酱王 (Xi’an shi 2017a)(Fig. 14). farming households (民屯)(Li 1993). In the process of land rec- One of the epitaphs mentions that the family cemetery was lamation, Gaoling County participated actively in the construc- located west of Xuwucun and that it is a newly established tion of another Jing River canal, the Hongkou Canal 洪口渠,to family cemetery (xin ying 新茔). Today, Xuwucun has two ensure that their land was irrigated. Although the military did not clusters: Upper and Lower Xuwucun (Shang Xuwu 上徐吾 control the Sanbai irrigation tun tian land, it was heavily involved and Xia Xuwu 下徐吾). The YGZ Ming tombs are located in taxation and in recruiting labor to work the reclaimed land and west of Upper Xuwucun and north of Lower Xuwucun, indi- transport supplies to the military (Song Lian 1370: vol. 65, 1629– cating that Upper Xuwucun is the older of the two villages. 1631). It is possible that YGZ and its adjacent land was once It is clear that the Zhang family never lived at Yangguanzhai, reclaimed land, used to support the military. as YGZ is not mentioned in the epitaphs, but it appears on the maps of the 1541 county gazetteer (Ma Li 1541 (2020): vol. 2, Fig. 4). The 1732 gazetteer specifies YGZ as occupied by jun hu 5 Conclusion 军户, military/garrison households (Xi’an shi 2017). It may have become a garrison already in the early half of the thirteenth In sum, despite all the missing information on some periods century when Ogodei Khan of the Yuan ordered the tun tian 屯 and details of life at YGZ over the past 5000 years that still 田 system of agriculture to be applied to land irrigated by the need to be traced via further fieldwork, the available data from Fig. 14 Location of Hancun, Yangguanzhai, Xuwucun, and Jiangwang (Afanzhai?) in 2018 asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 13 the late Neolithic and the Ming Dynasty provide some inter- Ming epitaphs still exist today. Some villages, such as esting insights into human-landscape connections. The land, Xuwucun, split up into two or more villages; others remained which sits on the alluvial plain of the Jing and the Wei Rivers, one community but expanded in size. YGZ, which was not is environmentally rich but subject to flooding by a very active mentioned in the epitaphs for reason that the village had never river system. During the Holocene climate optimum, the first been a destination of the Zhang family, appears first in the settlers came to YGZ and settled on the first terrace of the Jing Gaoling gazetteer of the Ming. It is to say, that although we River. They were farmers with sophisticated skills in pottery do not know when the first terrace of the Jing River was making, practicing millet cultivation, raising pigs, chickens, reclaimed, we are certain that for centuries, even though and dogs, hunting animals on land and water, and gathering flooding still posed a threat to people, they still lived there wild plants and herbs. They had forged relationships, directly (Gu et al. 2015) . We also noticed that the Neolithic burial and indirectly, with other groups living in the same valley and ground for its community turned into the Zhang family’scem- further afield. No clear social hierarchy is evident from their etery of the Ming centuries later. We cannot tell why that plot burials or habitation sites. Perhaps young children and women of land was perceived as a place for the dead by the residents, were treated differently, but at present the evidence is incon- whether they lived 5000 years ago or 500 years ago: we see clusive. We hope that future excavation will pay close atten- discontinuity of human settlement in this location, as well as tion to ditches and pits, as they preserve the most valuable continuity of human behavior in terms of land use. archaeological data, as in-depth analysis of H85 has shown. The landscape around YGZ has been continuously chang- The lack of human occupation and cultural remains after ing since 2004 when the Shaanxi provincial government des- the Neolithic has generated many questions. Although surface ignated the area as an economic development zone. Change collection in and around the Neolithic settlement include a few has accelerated after the announcement of the Belt and Road pottery and porcelain sherds from the second century BCE to Initiative. Another terminal has been added to the Xianyang- the twelfth century CE, archaeologists found no cultural re- Xi’an airport, and an inland free trade port has been erected, mains of this period. There is some evidence for rather limited all within a radius of 15 km from the site. The impact of human occupation in the vicinity for the early imperial period, economic developments on the environment is enormous, as though not at YGZ itself. At first sight, this seems surprising, we have noticed intensely during our fieldwork over the past considering that the Guanzhong Plain became the political ten years as we have worked on a project that attempts to center and home to the capital for the early empire and be- understand the relationship between human activity and the yond. Indeed, we see a large gap between Neolithic and Ming natural environment. dynasty remains. The main reason that we can see at present is a change in river courses, bringing with it an increase in flooding that made the area around YGZ less attractive to Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons settle in. Even prior to such changes, which are Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adap- tation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as geomorphologically attested, living in this area was always you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, pro- somewhat risky, though the access to water, fertile soil, and vide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were routes of exchange seems to have outweighed these risks at made. The images or other third party material in this article are included least in the view of the Neolithic inhabitants, though not there- in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's after. The lack of occupation for the Qin and Han period in Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by particular may have been connected to the establishment of statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain the capitals of the Qin and Han in the Guanzhong Plain, i.e., in permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this the immediate vicinity, attracting large numbers of people licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. with business opportunities and hopes for a better life. Nevertheless, these cities required an extensive hinterland to supply them with grain and other food and raw materials, so References one would expect there to have been a number of farmsteads Ban Gu 班固,Ban Zhao 班昭, and Yan Shigu 顏師古.1997 edition (c.CE and villages making use of the fertile land. We hope that 110). Han shu: [100 juan] 漢書:[100卷]. 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Di qing zi liao: “cun luo ji Zhongguo ke xue yuan kao gu yan jiu suo 中國科學院考古研究所. 1963. yi”“Jijia guan wei hui zhi Yangguanzhai” 地情资料:《村落记 Xi’an Banpo 西安半坡. Beijing: Wen wu chu ban she. 忆》“姬家管委会之杨官寨” (Local information, village memory, http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Asian Archaeology Springer Journals

A buried past: five thousand years of (pre) history on the Jing-Wei floodplain

Asian Archaeology , Volume 4 (1) – Apr 17, 2020

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Copyright © The Author(s) 2020
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2520-8098
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10.1007/s41826-020-00036-0
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Abstract

The Jing-Wei Floodplain, located in Shaanxi, China, has been home to various groups of people over the last 5000 years. Drawing together evidence from archaeology, paleobotany, geomorphology, climate sciences, and history, this paper provides a longue durée study of the local (pre)history of human occupation in this area with a special focus on human adaptation strategies and environmental history. In particular, the study summarizes and evaluates archaeological and geomorphological field research conducted over the last ten years and connects it with often overlooked local historical accounts and recent climate research in the Wei River Valley and observations on recent economic developments and their impact on both the environment and the people living in it. In spite of a rather long hiatus in occupation from the second century BCE to the twelfth century CE, the evidence shows that there are close similarities in human-environment relations and even continuities into the modern period. Though being a highly localized study, this paper can serve as an example for how such longue durée studies may be conducted in other regions, and it provides some suggestions for future field and laboratory research. . . . . . Keywords Longue durée Northern China Human-environment interaction Archaeology Environmental history Yangguanzhai 1 Introduction tributary of the Wei River and flows in from the north. More than ten years of fieldwork have revealed hundreds of features This paper addresses the environmental history and human covering an area close to one square kilometer (Fig. 1). Located adaptation strategies of a local community in Shaanxi 陕西, near one of China’s largest and most active river systems, the site China, over the past 5000 years. This small-scale, nuanced was greatly affected by its immediate environment. Over the last study is meant to shed some light on the relationship between ten years, about 20,000 square meters of excavation area have humans and their environment in this location but also provide been exposed at YGZ, allowing some insights into the site struc- an example for longue durée studies in other locations and ture, its history, and relationship with other Yangshao sites in the some suggestions for future field and laboratory research. Wei River Valley (Shaanxi 2009; Shaanxi sheng 2009; Shaanxi This paper focuses in particular on the Jing 泾 Wei 渭 flood- sheng and Baishui xian 2011; Shaanxi sheng and Zhong Mei plain around the archaeological site of Yangguanzhai 杨官寨 2018;Wangand Lee 2010). (YGZ), a large mid- to late Yangshao 仰韶 period (3500– 3000 cal. BCE) village located in the central Wei River Valley on the first terrace of the Jing River. The Jing is the largest 2 Prehistoric life on the Jing-Wei floodplain The first known settlers of YGZ were farmers who lived in a * Anke Hein village, ca. 4000–3000 BCE. The main settlement (usually anke.hein@arch.ox.ac.uk referred to as Beiqu 北区, northernsection)issurroundedby Ye Wa a trapezoidal ditch, averaging 2 to 4 m deep and 6 to 9 m wide, yedawa@gmail.com the widest part reaching 13 m. This imposing ditch is the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, CA, The ditch has been only partially excavated on the east and west side. The USA north and south sides of the ditch are unclear in their dimensions because University of Oxford, Oxford, UK modern buildings and a paved road prevent further survey and excavation. 2 asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 Fig. 1 Jing-Wei Floodplain in Shaanxi showing the location of the Yangguanzhai Neolithic settlement, Ming cemeteries mentioned in the text, and the Zhengguo Canal (after Shaanxi sheng and Zhong Mei 2018: Fig. 1) largest feature of the site, with a total length of approximately measuring 530 m from east to west, and 170 m from north to 1945 m. The area enclosed by the ditch is close to 24 ha in size south. Archaeologists have identified 343 Miaodigou tombs (Fig. 2). (Shaanxi sheng 2018a) and 21 Ming tombs (Shaanxi sheng Outside the southern portion of the ditch, to the southwest 2018b;Yang 2018)(Fig. 3). of the Beiqu, is another settlement named Nanqu 南区 (south section) which borders on an ancient gully or river channel 2.1 Neolithic cemetery located on its southern side which contained thick sand de- posits (personal communication by Zhang Pengcheng, The Neolithic cemetery contained only single burials. Tomb Shaanxi Academy of Archaeology, 2012). It is unclear how sizes varied little, the graves usually being just large enough to the two settlements were related chronologically since a mod- hold the body. Based on the preliminary archaeological report ern road cuts between them. As far as ceramic assemblages are of the cemetery published so far, only 3% of the excavated concerned, the ditched area of Beiqu and the northern part of tombs (11 out of 343) contained ceramic vessels, usually only Nanqu contained mostly Yangshao ceramics of Miaodigou 庙 one or two ceramic vessels each, including cups, jars, or ba- 底沟 style (ca. 3500–3300 BCE), while the rest of Nanqu is sins (Shaanxi sheng 2018a). Only one tomb held an amphora, characterized by Yangshao ceramics of Banpo 半坡 IV style laid next to the body. A few tomb occupants had personal (ca. 3300–3000 BCE), the latest phase of the Yangshao peri- ornaments such as bone hairpins, beads, bracelet, or pendants. od. So far, the stratigraphy at both sections reveals no overlap If differences in tomb size and tomb furnishing are an indica- of the two cultural phases, and it is difficult to say how the tor of social hierarchy, then the YGZ cemetery suggests a transition of ceramic styles took place at YGZ, i.e., if there society established on egalitarian principles with no differen- was a temporal rupture, abrupt transition, or gradual transfor- tiation by age, sex, or social status, at least in death. mation (Shaanxi sheng 2009). In addition to the prominent ditches, the features discovered at 2.2 Settlement layout YGZ include semi-subterranean dwellings, other types of hous- es, postholes, hearths, kilns, child burials, pits of various types, In size, the area within the ditch at YGZ is about twenty times ditches for water drainage, and there is also a single pond. larger than any of the earlier Neolithic sites in the Wei River Among these, pits account for over 80% of all excavated Valley, such as Banpo (Zhongguo 1963) or Jiangzhai 姜寨 Neolithic features. Historic remains and artifacts were also found, (Xi’an et al. 1988), which are estimated to have measured including tombs from various periods, water canals, a brick and about 5 ha. Deposits at Banpo and Jiangzhai indicate that tile kiln, and trash deposits, which will be discussed below. the two sites were “occupied discontinuously but repetitively” About 400 m east of the ditched settlement is a Miaodigou (Chang 1987: 114). YGZ presents a different picture. period cemetery. Surveys show that it extends over about 9 ha, Although overlapping features discovered in various parts of asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 3 Fig. 2 Plan of the Yangguanzhai site (courtesy of Wang Weilin) YGZ reflect house repairs or house reconstruction in the same on the western end of the Wei River Valley and the spot, the cultural layers in the residential areas are relatively Quanhucun 泉护村 site on its easternmost extension (Baoji thin and homogeneous compared to the thick deposits of shi et al. 1993; Shaanxi sheng et al. 2014). Both had a layout Banpo and Jiangzhai, which include different cultural compo- similar to that of YGZ and the number of pits at these sites is nents from late Neolithic to Bronze Age. Nevertheless, de- much higher than that of any other type of feature, as well. posits in deep features such as the ditches and pits are thick, At YZG, various types of features were found on both sides of indicating intense impact of both human activity and nature. the ditches, either close to the edge or right on the edge of the One similarity shared by YGZ and earlier sites is the spatial ditch. This suggests that the ditches were neither used for defen- separation of the living and the dead; in all cases, the ceme- sive purposes nor symbolic in nature (Fig. 4). At present, there is teries were outside the residential area. Other than that, YGZ too little data to be entirely sure about the function of the ditch; presents a very different layout. Excavations so far revealed furthermore, the function may have changed over time, starting no central plaza like those in the early sites where houses or for instance as a settlement demarcation that may have become clusters of houses surrounded an open area in the middle, and less relevant in later periods when the settlement grew beyond there were no large communal houses. An important feature of what was originally envisioned. At least for part of the usage Banpo and Jiangzhai is the separation of the residential area period, however, it seems highly likely that the large ditches were from its ceramic workshops, but that is not the case at YGZ. utilized for water/flood management. Mathew Fox’s (2014) There, houses and ceramic workshops were intermingled, sit- study on the ditch formation process indicates that overland flow ting side by side. This reminds us of the Fulinbao 福临堡 site formed the bottom unit of the ditch deposits, and that flood water Fig. 3 The ditched (residential) area and the cemetery at YGZ (courtesy of Wang Weilin) 4 asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 Fig. 4 YGZ: G8–4, inside / outside of the ditch (courtesy of Zhang Wei) Fig. 5 The “pond” and the drainage ditch (G7) (courtesy of Yang Liping) was the major force responsible for forming the deposits above. Jennifer Kielhofer’s(2013) research on the reconstruction of the the ditch. In several places, there are layers of pottery sherds in paleoenvironment and Hu Ke’s(2017) study on ancient river the ditch, as for instance recorded near the “West Gate” of the courses demonstrate that the site was flooded numerous times trenched area. Many of these sherds are restorable (Shaanxi during and after the Neolithic period. These indicators suggest 2009;Wangand Lee 2010). In Nanqu, a development that water/flood control must have been on the minds of the YGZ postdating the ditched area, archaeologists found several kilns inhabitants when building the ditches. and 13 cave dwellings arrayed along an ancient cliff, many of Other features that may have been related to water manage- them in alternating sequence of kilns and dwellings (Fig. 6). ment include a potential reservoir and drainage ditches. In the Some of these cave dwellings differed from other houses in central part of the ditched area, on a mild slope, is a large, the number of hearths found inside: one contained three, an- irregular-shaped, sunken spot measuring close to 340 square other two. The excavators believe that this area was devoted to meters with a depth from 2.8 to 3.1 m (Shaanxi sheng 2018). pottery making and that the cave dwellings next to the kilns Two step-like platforms were found next to the bank, which served as working spaces, but they do not say why more than are thought to have been footsteps used when fetching water one hearth should be needed in some of them. Among the (Shaanxi sheng 2018). Signs of cutting at the bottom of the many pits in this area, one (H402) contained a group of com- bank are understood to be the result of removing silt. More plete ceramic vessels, including 22 amphoras, 19 jars, 16 convincing evidence is a small channel found at the lower end bowls, 9 basins, 5 urns, some unfired pottery, and one object of the potential reservoir which led to a densely occupied area that investigators believe to be a potter’s wheel (Fig. 7). of houses, kilns, child burial, and pits (Fig. 5). It seems that this large settlement had no “center” or “central As mentioned above, hui keng 灰坑, literally “ash pits,” place.” The clusters of houses scattered around the site likewise generally interpreted as garbage dumps, account for over showed no indication of settlement planning. The buildings were 80% of the features excavated at YGZ and other places in orientated in a variety of directions, and pits were scattered ev- the Wei River Valley such as Quanhucun mentioned above. erywhere in between. The anthropogenic deposits at the site con- These pits have generally attracted little interest as objects of sist mostly of household waste, including fragmented building research; however, their history can be complex as they may materials of daub, burnt earth, residential matting or floors of have gone through several incarnations of usage such as animal enclosures, organic waste, and a large amount of broken dwellings or storage pits before having served as dumps and or otherwise unusable ceramics (Fox 2013). Waste associated then closed after having been filled with trash. So far, only one with pottery productions were found in many places, some of such pit, H85, has been excavated and researched in great them deformed pottery but mostly vitrified chunks from broken detail, and we will discuss it further below due to its complex kilns, and it has thus been suggested that the site may have been a history (Shaanxi sheng and Zhong Mei 2018). ceramic production center, though further excavation work is In addition to over 49 houses, 896 so-called ash pits, 9 necessary to test this hypothesis (Hein et al. forthcoming). The ditches, and 32 urn burials, a total of 26 kilns were found in two well-preserved kilns found in the northeast section have Beiqu and Nanqu. Several kilns were dug into the banks of intact fire boxes and fire chambers, where the walls show the provenience of the vitrified materials. Household hearths These numbers do not include kilns excavated after 2009 which have not yet been reported, or features indicating open firing without kilns which have not Nearly identical “potter’swheels” have also been found at Banpo and Anban been systematically collated yet. (Kaogu 1963). asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 5 Fig. 6 Cave dwellings and kilns along the ancient cliff, YGZ, south section (photos by Ye Wa) produced no vitrified materials despite repeated firing, indicating that the temperature was not high enough for vitrification. 2.3 Special-purpose buildings Fig. 7 Ceramics and potter’s wheel from YGZ (photos curtesy of Yang The houses at YGZ were constructed with wattle and daub sim- Liping) ilar to other Neolithic dwellings in the Wei River Valley. Largely missing at YGZ are large houses of square or rectangular shape dirt making a new living surface, covered again with garbage, as they have been found in earlier or contemporary sites in the followed by a new living surface, and so on. valley (Shaanxi sheng and Baishui xian 2011). Most houses The large number of ceramic rings found in the pit – 87 in found at YGZ were round-shaped, above ground or semi- total – suggest that it may have been a communal dwelling for subterranean dwellings. Some house floors were covered with mothers and their infants. It has long been speculated that calcium carbonate nodules. House sizes varied, the large ones Yangshao ceramic rings were used as bracelets, and this was having a diameter of close to 9 m. One of the many pits mentioned above, H85, was charac- finally proved by the discovery of a cemetery at YGZ were ceramic rings were indeed found on the wrists of many tomb terized by a large number of layers with a complex deposition history and two platforms on the bottom (Fig. 8) (Shaanxi occupants, both male and female, adults and children. They serve as diagnostic artifacts to differentiate age groups: small- sheng and Zhong Mei 2018). H85 had an oval opening and er sizes for children and larger ones for adults. Several skele- measured 4 by 2.3 m on the top with a diameter of 3.85 m on tons, including a child, had rings on their wrists upon excava- the bottom and a depth of 3.2 m. Careful excavation and tion. In H85, a total of 87 ceramic rings were found, 44 of testing of the deposits of this pit led us to suggest that it was them from the bottom layers, all of them ranging from 3.3 to used as a subterranean dwelling for a special purpose. A 6cmindiameter(Shaanxisheng andZhongMei 2018). similar sized pit found in Quanhu had a hearth at the bottom and postholes around the pit opening and a staircase along the Modern-day bangles for women usually measure around 6.5 cm in diameter, suggesting that the ones found in H85 pit wall (Shaanxi sheng et al. 2018). The internal deposition layers were similar in character and contents to those of H85. were worn by adult women or men and children. While the rings in the upper layers were larger in diameter (mostly be- The primary deposit at the bottom of H85 consisted of ash, sand-size charcoal, charred seeds, animal bones, shells, and tween 5.5 and 7.7 cm, only 11 measuring 5 cm or less), of the 44 rings from the bottom layers, 36 (82%) had an inner diam- restorable ceramic vessels. Cooking pot lids and serving eter equal to or smaller than 5 cm; of these, 12 were equal to or bowls were leaning on the wall upon excavation. Above, the smaller than 4 cm (Shaanxi sheng and Zhong Mei 2018: pit contained alternating bands of grey and brownish colored Table 1) (Fig. 9). Additionally, an infant skeleton was found deposits that were household garbage paved over with fresh in a structure right next to H85 and three burials of older 4 children were found within 30 m east of H85, supplying fur- Research on this feature is still ongoing and micromorphological samples ther support to the hypothesis of H85 being a dwelling for taken from the bottom of the pit still await analysis. 6 asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 Fig. 8 Pit H85 (after Shaanxi sheng and Zhong Mei 2018: Fig. 2) asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 7 developed agriculture and a sedentary way of life enhanced the inhabitants’ familiarity with their surroundings and vege- tation. A concentration of herbs, including Xiazhicao 夏至草 (Lagopsis supina), Tuchuanghua 秃疮花 (Dicranostigma leptopodum) and Nihucai 泥胡菜 (Hemistepta lyrate) were found at the bottom layers of the pit (Fig. 10). All of these are commonly used in Chinese medicine today for treatment of gynecological disorders and ailments, bringing down a fe- ver, staunching bleeding from wounds, and even insect con- trol. Xiazhicao is widely used to treat gynecological illness of amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, irregular menstruation, excessive postpartum hemorrhage, postpartum uterine contraction and other postpartum related ailments. Tuchuanghu, a Papaveraceae, is able to bring down fever, help with detumes- cence, analgesia, sore throat, and lymphatic tuberculosis, and it is also used in insect control. Nihucai is used to treat all kinds of sores, hemorrhoids, and wounds (Tang et al. forthcoming). Without more extensive archaeobotanical stud- ies of other parts of the site, it is still too early to draw a conclusion that the YGZ residents had already acquired knowledge of certain herbs and their medical effect. Yet, a concentration of such herbs with similar function in treatment found in the bottom of the pit implies that the inhabitants of the dwelling had certain demand for them. As elsewhere in the Wei River Valley during this period, pigs were raised for meat consumption. At YGZ, the slaughtering age for pigs was around two years or younger (Hu et al. 2011; Shaanxi sheng and Zhong Mei 2018). Other domesticated animals include chicken, perhaps ox, and dog; however, among the remains of domesticated animals, pigs Fig. 9 Ceramic rings in situ (above) and individual photo (below) (cour- were by far the most common. The two published sets of tesy of Yang Liping) fauna collections from YGZ are from two different locales, the “West Gate” next to the ditch and H85. They show differ- women and children. The remains of animal bones, such as ent results. This is likely due to different sampling methods fresh water turtles, yellow-cheek fish, and gold eagle, and (screening vs. non-screened), but differences in locale may plenty of domestic and wild plants as well as various kinds also be a factor. For the ditch, investigators identified 11 spe- of herbs identified via paleobotanical analysis on floatation cies; among these, domesticated pig accounts for 78% of all samples may indicate the special care that the dwellers of this bones. For H85, of the twenty identified species, pig bones pit received from the community. accounts for only 6%. However, in both places, wild animals were far more common than domestic animals: in the ditch, 63% are wild animal bones (7 out of 11 species); in H85, wild 2.4 Subsistence and medical knowledge animals account for 90% of all the recovered bones (18 out of 20 species). Flad et al.’s(2007 and 2009) study on meat con- The YGZ community subsisted on millet cultivation, pig hus- sumption in Northwest China has reached a similar conclusion bandry, wild animal hunting, fishing, and wild plant gather- for this region during the Neolithic period. ing. Systematic samples taken from one pit (H85) for paleo- botanical research show that of all identifiable charred seeds, 31% are foxtail grasses, followed by millet (27%), and le- gumes (16%) (Ma 2016;Tangetal. forthcoming). Well- The International Archaeological Field School, IFR, excavated H85. A screen with a mesh of 0.5 × 0.5 cm was used and samples were taken sepa- There was no burial equipment such as an urn for the infant body. The rately for each layer. No screen was used at the West Gate excavation. Rowan International Archeological Field School (IRF) excavated the body. Flad and his Chinese colleagues discussed this problem in Chinese archaeo- Elizabeth Berger identified the skeleton is 36–40 weeks old. logical practice in 2007 (Flad et al. 2007). Even though collecting fauna re- Micromorphological samples were taken where the skeleton was found, and mains improved somewhat since 2007, screening is still not common in many they now await analysis. archaeological sites, especially in rescue projects. 8 asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 9 Fig. 10 Paleobotanical samples from H85: 1. Schoenoplectus first terrace of the Jing River, land instability occurred (Gu mucronatus 水毛花,H85④; 2. Carex 薹草属,H85⑨;3. Corydalis et al. 2012). Nonetheless, radiocarbon dating from human bungeana 地丁草, H85.14; 4. Dicranostigma leptopodum 秃疮花, bone from the YGZ cemetery (3637–2918 cal. BCE) H85.14; 5. Lagopsis 夏至草, H85.14; 6. Perilla frutescens 紫苏, H85.14; (Shaanxi 2018a) does not exactly match the OSL dating. 7. Hemistepta lyrate泥胡菜,H85.14; 8. Asteraceae flower heads菊科头状 花序,H85.14; 9. Patrinia scabiosifolia 黄花龙牙, 2013H85②; 10. Sour Thus, although we are not certain if the abandonment of jujube 酸枣, 2013H85⑦; 11. Geraniaceae 牻牛儿苗, 2013H85④; 12. YGZ was caused by a specific flood, flood water was a key Thorn 刺状物,2013H85③; 13. Bulb front and base 鳞茎, H85.14; 14. element to consider. After the Neolithic residents left YGZ, Bulb base 鳞茎 (same as 13, enlarged), H8514; 15. Bulb, enlargement the area was deserted for over 3000 years. The eight other of internal cell structure (same as 13 and 14), H85.14; 16. Bulb 鳞茎, known Yangshao settlements along the Jing and Wei Rivers H8514; 17. Bulb 鳞茎, H85.14; 18. Bulb 鳞茎,2014H85⑨ (after Tang et al. forthcoming) in the vicinity of YGZ were abandoned, as well. Two late Neolithic Longshan 龙山 cultural sites were found on the sec- ondary terrace of the Wei River and on a knoll respectively (Guo jia wen wu ju 1998: vol. 2, 133). The next sign of human 2.5 Communication with the outside world activities at YGZ appeared only around the second century BCE, with a single sacrificial event that took place during Portable XFR analysis conducted on the clay composition of 932 the Western Han 汉 dynasty, leaving a large ceramic vessel sherds from 11 features of both Miaodigou and Banpo IV phases next to two small lambs in the ruins of the Neolithic village of YGZ was conducted in 2015 and 2016. The data seem “con- (Sino-American Field School 2012). sistent with a more homogenous clay composition in the Banpo IV period than in the earlier Miaodigou period” (Bradly et al. 2017). This is consistent with the fact that during the Banpo IV 3 Qin and Han period YGZ (fourth century BCE phase, the settlement was compressed to a much smaller space to third century CE) and ceramic production was carried out in a more centralized fashion. More notable is the fact that by “using bivariate plots, YGZ was not used as a settlement during the very long and a difference between H402 and other YGZ features in terms of eventful period from the late Neolithic to the Iron Age. Even clay is apparent” (Bradly et al. 2017). The ceramic types found in after the land stabilized and pedogenesis occurred as reflected H402 were common at sites throughout the Wei River Valley at by the soil unit above the SWDs, people did not return to the time, especially the broad-shouldered amphora with YGZ. Historically, from the fourth to third centuries BCE, scratched swirling patterns, mostly found in the vicinity of the vast area stretching from just north of the Jing and Wei present-day Xi’an (personal communication with Shao Jing, Rivers to the hills of the loess plateau (known to locals as 2019). YGZ did have other ceramic items that were likely Beishan 北山 or northern mountains) was controlled by the imported, mostly small portable items such as the white paste Qin 秦 State, and later the Qin Dynasty (Li 1984:175–189). bracelets, either plain or with red-painted patterns. So far, archae- Historians often treat the 383 BC move of the Qin capital from ological finds in the Wei River valley have not produced any Yongcheng永城 at the western end of the Wei River Valley to locally made white paste ceramics, so we conclude that they were Liyang溧阳 at the foothills of the loess plateau as the prologue imported from outside the valley, mostly likely from today’s to the unification of China some 200 years later. Not long after Henan 河南 province. that, in 349 BC, the Qin moved its capital again to Xianyang Human occupation at YGZ ended quite abruptly. The 咸阳, a fertile area in the heart of the alluvial plain of the Jing abandonment of the settlement was likely caused by floods. and the Wei. The Qin stayed there for over 144 years until When the settlement moved south and closer to the Jing River, Xiang Yu项羽 and his troops burned down the city in 206 BC. the chances for the site being flooded increased. Nine profiles YGZ sits right in the middle of the two capitals, 33 km south- of test trenches at YGZ indicate that overbank flooding oc- west of Liyang and 16 km northeast of the Qin’sXianyang curred on several occasions (Kielhofer 2013). Evidence of capital (Li 1984:175–189). slack water deposits (SWDs) found on the profile south of Critical to the transformation examined in this study was the site indicate that at the end of Mid-Holocene Climatic the construction of the Zheng Guo Canal 郑国渠 in 246 BC. Optimum, extraordinary floods occurred along the Jing and Sima Qian (first century BCE) tells the dramatic story of its Wei rivers (Gu et al. 2012;Huang et al. 2010, 2011). construction in his Shi ji 史记,or Records of the Grand Geomorphological studies show that between the lower Historian: the failed political plot, the persuasion of the hy- paleosol and the upper paleosol at YGZ, five major floods draulic engineer Zheng Guo 郑国, and the visionary Duke of occurred one after another (Gu et al. 2012; Huang et al. the Qin, all working in the end to bring the canal to comple- 2010, 2011). The OSL dates indicate several lower SWDs tion. The result was amazing: it was 300 li long, running between 4200 and 4000 BP and an upper SWD between “along the foot of the northern mountains, carrying water of 3200 and 2800 BP (Gu et al. 2012). The floods covered the the Jing to fall into the Luo 洛河 river in the east… When it 10 asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 was finished, rich silt-bearing water was led through it to archaeological excavations conducted at Yangling township irrigate more than 40,000 qing 頃 (667,000 acres) of alkali have been reported in detail (Yan et al. 2013; Yang 2011, land. The harvest from these fields attained the level of one 2014, 2017). zhong per mu亩. Thus, Guanzhong关中 became a fertile land These rapid developments during the Qin-Han period seem without recorded poor harvests. Qin became rich and power- to have spared YGZ. The result of the first (1956) and second ful, and in the end was able to conquer all the other feudal (1981–1989) nationwide cultural heritage surveys and subse- states” (Sima Qian: vol. 29, 1408). quent fieldwork in the area show no Han remains along the Archaeological surveys revealed the original dam and canal first terrace of the Jing River near YGZ, but on a higher knoll of the third century BCE as well as many later dams and canals south of the Jing River there were few (Guo jia wen wu ju from the Han to the 1930s (Qin et al. 2006)(Fig. 1). Although 1998: vol. 2, 133–134). It is plausible that concerns over the survey report could not link all the dams and canals un- flooding played a role in people staying away from YGZ equivocally with those mentioned in the histories, the surveys while the irrigated land north of YGZ seems to have been found over 30 dams and 17 water channels and identified more more attractive to them. In addition, since YGZ was so close than 20 hydraulic projects in a 10 square km area near Gukou to the political center at the time, people may not have been 谷口 in Jingyang 泾阳 County (Qin et al. 2006:Fig. 1-3). able to choose freely where to settle in this area. When con- The move of the Qin capital to the hillside above the valley crete evidence liberates us from the realm of guesswork, time in the fourth century BCE was initially a political tactic, but in had already raced to the AD fifteenth century. In other words, the end it lifted the Guanzhong agricultural economy to an for over 4000 years, YGZ left no archaeological remains. unprecedented level. By the end of the third century BCE, when the Western Han had established its capital in the valley south of the Wei River, the Jing-Wei plain had become one of 4 The Ming (1368–1644) tombs the richest areas in Han China. Population numbers boomed Within the confines of the YGZ Neolithic cemetery, archae- due to the policy of “strengthening the center and weakening the outlying areas” (qiang guan ruo zhi 强干弱枝) of the early ologists also found 21 Ming 明 dynastic period tombs (Shaanxi 2018a,Yang 2018). Among them, four had epitaphs Western Han, when the court promoted the coercive and vol- untarily relocation of the powerful feudal families to stabilize dating between 1531 and 1603 (Fig. 11). The tombs belong to at least three generations of the Zhang張 family who belonged the Han polity. In addition, mausoleum construction north of the Wei River also needed a large labor force. Ling yi 陵邑, to the local elite, tracing their ancestors back five or six gen- erations, living in three villages within less than 4 km. The mausoleum townships, were built on the secondary terraces to hold the migrant laborers. According to the Shi ji and Hanshu, epitaphs briefly traced their ancestors’ origins and family his- tory, listing the names of three villages where the family had by the beginning of the first century CE, the population of the resided and that still exist today. From the epitaphs, we learn mausoleum townships reached over 400,000 (Yu Xi 2013). One of them, Yangling 阳陵 township, was located less than that the Zhang family had lived near YGZ for over 200 years. Their forebears lived in Hancun 寒村, a port village on the 3 km across the Jing River from YGZ. According to the ca. CE 110 Gu et al. 1997汉书, household surveys of 2 CE (Song northern bank of the Jing River. Later, the family moved to Afanzhai 阿藩寨, and finally settled in Xuwucun village 徐吾 1370: 2) show that Changling 长陵 had 50,057 households and a population of 179,469; Maoling 茂陵, 60,187 house- 村 in the early Yuan 元 dynasty (AD 1260–1368) (Fig. 12). The epitaphs do not reveal the cause or dates of the moves, but holds and 277, 277 population (Ban Gu et al.: vol. 28, 1545–47). No household numbers are known for Yangling. they seem to have been unrelated to either social turmoil or natural disasters since the moves were very local. The most When the township was established, the household and pop- ulation numbers were likely lower. The results of likely reason was family partition, a common practice as members moved nearby when a family grew too large to be accommodated in the same settlement. The Zhang’s forebears were known to locals as the One zhong = 64 dou 斗, 1 dou (in the Han Dynasty) = 7.5 kg. Thus this Pontoon-Bridge Zhang 桴橋張家, as stated on the epitaph of represents a harvest of 480 kg per mu. tomb M54, since each year they built a pontoon bridge across The translation is based on Needham 1971: 283. The story was that after the Duke of Han 韓 learnt about the ambitions of the Qin, he sent the hydraulic the Jing River at Hancun, a port on the northern bank of the engineer Zheng Guo to Qin to persuade them to open a canal to link the Jing Jing River. This port is also known as Huangjiadu 黄家渡,as and the Luo Rivers. The purpose was to exhaust the Qin’s power with this mentioned in the 1541 Gaoling 高陵 gazetteer. Today’s grand public project. Later, after the Duke of Qin had been made aware of this plan, he wanted to kill Zheng Guo. Zheng Guo admitted his deceitfulness but told the Duke that “when the canal is completed, it will be of great benefit to Lu Nan吕柟 wrote the first Gaoling zhi高陵志 (Gaoling County Gazetteer) in Qin.” The Duke listened and let Zheng Guo finish the project. Joseph 1541. Two more were compiled in 1732 (the tenth year of the Yongzheng雍正 Needham has compiled a detailed analysis from the historic accounts of the reign) and 1881 (the seventh year of the Guangxu 光绪 reign). The two latest project. editions were published in 1941 and 2000. asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 11 Fig. 11 A Neolithic and historic cemetery at YGZ (courtesy of Yang Liping) Hancun is further from the Jing River, likely due to a shift in same names as two villages close to the YGZ Ming tombs, the water course to the south and erosion of the bank. and they both first appeared in the Gaoling county gazetteer Nonetheless, it is still the closest village to the river. A modern published in 1541 (Gaoling xian 2000)(Fig. 13). The charac- cement bridge was built in the year 2000. ter for the han 寒 of Hancun differs between the epitaphs and The two villages mentioned in the fourteenth century tomb modern usage (韩村), but based on location, these refer to the epitaphs, Hancun 韩村 and the Xuwucun 徐武村, bear the same village. The character of wu for the Xuwucun is also Fig. 12 Epitaph of Mr. Zhang Mianshan (1488–1560) of the Ming and his wives Shishi (1487–1541) and Gaoshi (1510–1567) 明故处士面山张公 暨配石氏高氏合葬墓志铭. He is described as chu shi 处士, denoting that he is a person with virtue who lives in seclusion and does not want to be an official or a scholar and who has not attained an office. He was the oldest son of the Zhang family. He travelled to Suzhou and Hangzhou when he was young and came to be well-known among the literate class. Following the wishes of his father, he returned home eventually and took Fig. 13 Map in the Gaoling county gazetteer showing YGZ (1524) (after over family affairs (Shaanxi sheng 2018b:22) Ma Li 1541 (2020): vol. 2, Fig. 4) 12 asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 different in the epitaphs. Three of the four epitaphs used the Sanbai Canal 三白渠.The tun tian system originated during the character wu 吾 that is used today, but one chose a different Hanperiodwithsoldiersconverting newlyconqueredlandinto character, wu 吴. The newest Gaoling gazetteer, published in farmland whose crops were used to supply the army. Later, the 2000, uses both 吾 and 吴 for Xuwucun and in the map of the tun tian system came to be applied to civilians as well, who were 1541 gazetteer, wu 吴 is printed as ju 具, likely a printing given land and farming implements in exchange for half their mistake (Gaoling xian 2000). Allinall, itishighlylikelythat harvest, which they had to give to the government (Luo et al. these all refer to the same place. The only village name that 2017). A tun tian office had been set up in the neighboring appeared in the epitaphs but not in the Ming gazetteer is county of Jingyang, which claimed 1020 qing of land (Yuan Afanzhai, the place the Zhang family moved prior to their shi vol. 60, p. 1424). At the peak of the tun tian program during final residence in Xuwucun. Afanzhai appears in a much later the latter half of the thirteenth century, under the Shaanxi Tuntian edition (1732) of the Gaoling County Gazetteer, as Afanzhai Command 陕西屯田总管府, the government claimed a total of Wangjia 阿藩寨王加, later called Jiangwangjia 酱王家, and to- 5853 qing of land from the valley and controlled over 7000 day, Jiangwang 酱王 (Xi’an shi 2017a)(Fig. 14). farming households (民屯)(Li 1993). In the process of land rec- One of the epitaphs mentions that the family cemetery was lamation, Gaoling County participated actively in the construc- located west of Xuwucun and that it is a newly established tion of another Jing River canal, the Hongkou Canal 洪口渠,to family cemetery (xin ying 新茔). Today, Xuwucun has two ensure that their land was irrigated. Although the military did not clusters: Upper and Lower Xuwucun (Shang Xuwu 上徐吾 control the Sanbai irrigation tun tian land, it was heavily involved and Xia Xuwu 下徐吾). The YGZ Ming tombs are located in taxation and in recruiting labor to work the reclaimed land and west of Upper Xuwucun and north of Lower Xuwucun, indi- transport supplies to the military (Song Lian 1370: vol. 65, 1629– cating that Upper Xuwucun is the older of the two villages. 1631). It is possible that YGZ and its adjacent land was once It is clear that the Zhang family never lived at Yangguanzhai, reclaimed land, used to support the military. as YGZ is not mentioned in the epitaphs, but it appears on the maps of the 1541 county gazetteer (Ma Li 1541 (2020): vol. 2, Fig. 4). The 1732 gazetteer specifies YGZ as occupied by jun hu 5 Conclusion 军户, military/garrison households (Xi’an shi 2017). It may have become a garrison already in the early half of the thirteenth In sum, despite all the missing information on some periods century when Ogodei Khan of the Yuan ordered the tun tian 屯 and details of life at YGZ over the past 5000 years that still 田 system of agriculture to be applied to land irrigated by the need to be traced via further fieldwork, the available data from Fig. 14 Location of Hancun, Yangguanzhai, Xuwucun, and Jiangwang (Afanzhai?) in 2018 asian archaeol (2020) 4:1–15 13 the late Neolithic and the Ming Dynasty provide some inter- Ming epitaphs still exist today. Some villages, such as esting insights into human-landscape connections. The land, Xuwucun, split up into two or more villages; others remained which sits on the alluvial plain of the Jing and the Wei Rivers, one community but expanded in size. YGZ, which was not is environmentally rich but subject to flooding by a very active mentioned in the epitaphs for reason that the village had never river system. During the Holocene climate optimum, the first been a destination of the Zhang family, appears first in the settlers came to YGZ and settled on the first terrace of the Jing Gaoling gazetteer of the Ming. It is to say, that although we River. They were farmers with sophisticated skills in pottery do not know when the first terrace of the Jing River was making, practicing millet cultivation, raising pigs, chickens, reclaimed, we are certain that for centuries, even though and dogs, hunting animals on land and water, and gathering flooding still posed a threat to people, they still lived there wild plants and herbs. They had forged relationships, directly (Gu et al. 2015) . We also noticed that the Neolithic burial and indirectly, with other groups living in the same valley and ground for its community turned into the Zhang family’scem- further afield. No clear social hierarchy is evident from their etery of the Ming centuries later. We cannot tell why that plot burials or habitation sites. Perhaps young children and women of land was perceived as a place for the dead by the residents, were treated differently, but at present the evidence is incon- whether they lived 5000 years ago or 500 years ago: we see clusive. We hope that future excavation will pay close atten- discontinuity of human settlement in this location, as well as tion to ditches and pits, as they preserve the most valuable continuity of human behavior in terms of land use. archaeological data, as in-depth analysis of H85 has shown. The landscape around YGZ has been continuously chang- The lack of human occupation and cultural remains after ing since 2004 when the Shaanxi provincial government des- the Neolithic has generated many questions. Although surface ignated the area as an economic development zone. Change collection in and around the Neolithic settlement include a few has accelerated after the announcement of the Belt and Road pottery and porcelain sherds from the second century BCE to Initiative. Another terminal has been added to the Xianyang- the twelfth century CE, archaeologists found no cultural re- Xi’an airport, and an inland free trade port has been erected, mains of this period. There is some evidence for rather limited all within a radius of 15 km from the site. The impact of human occupation in the vicinity for the early imperial period, economic developments on the environment is enormous, as though not at YGZ itself. At first sight, this seems surprising, we have noticed intensely during our fieldwork over the past considering that the Guanzhong Plain became the political ten years as we have worked on a project that attempts to center and home to the capital for the early empire and be- understand the relationship between human activity and the yond. Indeed, we see a large gap between Neolithic and Ming natural environment. dynasty remains. The main reason that we can see at present is a change in river courses, bringing with it an increase in flooding that made the area around YGZ less attractive to Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons settle in. Even prior to such changes, which are Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adap- tation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as geomorphologically attested, living in this area was always you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, pro- somewhat risky, though the access to water, fertile soil, and vide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were routes of exchange seems to have outweighed these risks at made. The images or other third party material in this article are included least in the view of the Neolithic inhabitants, though not there- in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's after. The lack of occupation for the Qin and Han period in Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by particular may have been connected to the establishment of statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain the capitals of the Qin and Han in the Guanzhong Plain, i.e., in permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this the immediate vicinity, attracting large numbers of people licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. with business opportunities and hopes for a better life. Nevertheless, these cities required an extensive hinterland to supply them with grain and other food and raw materials, so References one would expect there to have been a number of farmsteads Ban Gu 班固,Ban Zhao 班昭, and Yan Shigu 顏師古.1997 edition (c.CE and villages making use of the fertile land. We hope that 110). Han shu: [100 juan] 漢書:[100卷]. 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Published: Apr 17, 2020

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