Bonze Age city discovered in Northern China

30 Oct
Shimao was protected by a thick wall (source)
The site of Shimao in Northern Shaanxi was already known but new measures indicate it covers more than 4 km² being surrounded by a thick wall, what makes it a city without almost any possible debate.
I could only find so much information on the finding but the date provided (4000 years ago) would place it between the Late Neolithic culture of Longshan and the Early Bronze one of Erlitou, which is typically identified with the Xia dynasty. [But see update].
Sources in English: Mole, In Spanish: Spanish People.

Update: Va_Highlander has been looking up articles in Chinese (see comments) and it seems that the site is identified as having a long sequence from mid-Longshan to Erlitou (or Xia Dynasty).

The site is located on the Northern edge of the Loess Plateau, some 20 km away from the Yellow River. 

References in Chinese language: Guancha, Smwhys and

Bronze swords

Posted by on October 30, 2012 in archaeology, Bronze Age, China, East Asia, Neolithic


55 responses to “Bonze Age city discovered in Northern China

  1. bfde8a60-7627-11e1-94ed-000bcdcb471e

    October 31, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Very interesting! I just want point out that it might be "Shimao" instead of "Shibao". It's particular interesting because Shimao is located in Shenmu, Yulin, Shaanxi, an area associated with nomadic groups during the Xia Dynasty, and normally one doesn't associate nomads with walled cities.

  2. Maju

    October 31, 2012 at 9:36 am

    It is Shimao in fact: a typo caused by my ignorance. I'll correct that now, thanks.

  3. Va_Highlander

    October 31, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    This is indeed fascinating. I would hesitate to say that the city is Longshan or Erlitou, though, at least without evidence. None of the details provided, scant as they are, suggests such a cultural identification.On the whole, this report seems to raise far more questions than it answers. Even calling the city "Neolithic" seems somewhat problematic. And given that this is Chinese archeology, it's tempting to speculate on whether the researchers don't know the answers to the more obvious questions or are merely reluctant to state their findings publicly.

  4. Maju

    October 31, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    The phrasing I used should indicate I am also uncertain about the cultural affiliation, still I preferred to suggest the nearest likely references than just list it as an unclassified finding. Cultural contextualization is everything in Prehistory, otherwise it'd be just an endless list of sites and artifacts without meaning. But I agree that in this case the information is so far lacking and I'd welcome some more data.

  5. Va_Highlander

    November 1, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    What caught my eye were the stone walls. It was my understanding that rammed-earth — tapial or pisé — walls were more typical of Longshan sites. However, looking at Google translations of articles in Chinese, this team of experts are saying that the Shimao — "stone mound" — site dates from the mid to late Longshan and specifically mention pot shards in establishing those dates. Presumably, they have positively identified the culture as Longshan.The Chinese articles emphasize that, even after two-years of surveys and test digs, they have only begun to scratch the surface of this site and that the conservation and excavation it deserves will take decades.I wonder why so large a city arose in such a relatively remote location?

  6. Maju

    November 1, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Most interesting complementary information, Highlander. Thanks a lot. "I wonder why so large a city arose in such a relatively remote location?"I also wonder that. Maybe the climate was less arid back in the day and/or maybe it was a military outpost with a trading role (obviously it corresponds to very advanced Neolithic, what we would call Chalcolithic over here only because of the level of civilization achieved, what probably implies some sort of polities). But just wild guesses anyhow.

  7. bfde8a60-7627-11e1-94ed-000bcdcb471e

    November 2, 2012 at 6:00 am

    I'm wondering if it will be possible to get the link to the Chinese article? 🙂

  8. Maju

    November 2, 2012 at 6:16 am

    Agreed: that'd be interesting indeed. I can't read Chinese but with the help of an online translator we can surely get a decent idea of what it is about. Also it may be of interest for possible Chinese-speakers who stop by.

  9. Va_Highlander

    November 2, 2012 at 11:07 am

    My apologies. I should have posted the links with my original comment: least they provide pictures that we didn't already have.

  10. Va_Highlander

    November 2, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    On reflexion, I suppose it's possible that the presence of Longshan pottery fragments don't necessarily make this a Longshan site. Wiki tells me that their egg-shell pottery has been found as far away as the south China coast, far outside the immediate sphere of Longshan influence.The Shimao ruin is in the Ordos Loop, on the edge of the Loess Plateau — if I'm reading the Chinese correctly, it lies north-east of the ancient town of Gaojiapu, on the Tuwei River, at a place called, Shimaocun, "stone mound village". This is obviously a border region or transition zone and a likely area of contact between the pastoralism of the grasslands and the settled agriculture of the Yellow River and its tributaries. I agree with your thinking and would speculate that this might have been an important trade center or military garrison or indeed both, since given the location I suspect anything of value would require protection.And of course you're quite right about this being the highly-advanced end of the Neolithic and arguably well into the Chalcolithic. I think this is what makes this site so fascinating, personally. It's physically located on the north-west edge of huaxia and is chronologically within centuries of the dawn of the bronze industry in ancient China and the domestication of the horse. Since both technologies probably entered China from the west, sites like Shimao may offer insight as to how that came about.

  11. Maju

    November 2, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Very interesting, thanks again. The first site seems to say that it fills the whole sequence: Yongshan – Longshan – Erlitou – Xia. It even shows bronze swords. The second one emphasizes its location in the northern reaches of the Loess Plateau but it's difficult to understand from the rest something else than a long list of finidings. The third one I could not translate using Google.I'll include them in a new update.

  12. Maju

    November 2, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    I am really imagining it as a precursor of the Great Wall but then of course the Great Wall was never a city… so there must be some differences as well.

  13. bfde8a60-7627-11e1-94ed-000bcdcb471e

    November 3, 2012 at 1:42 am

    @Maju, the first two articles say experts believe the site at Shimao started in the middle phase of Longshan, extending through Longshan late phase, early Erlitou and early Xia.The third article says the stone wall and city site was found to be contemporary to late Longshan and early Xia.All three articles say the date ~4000 years ago and that Shimao is the largest pre-historic city in China.Longshan culture is usually dated 5000 – 4000 years ago (according to Wikipedia), so that would imply the first two articles are suggesting the site started around 4500 years ago. Anyway, very interesting and I hope future work can tell us more!

  14. bfde8a60-7627-11e1-94ed-000bcdcb471e

    November 3, 2012 at 1:50 am

    Sorry for double post, but I also want to mention that while the image certainly looks like bronzeware, none of the articles mention bronze or any sort of metal. The 2nd article had the most detail, and listed jade tools, stone tools, and pottery.

  15. Maju

    November 3, 2012 at 3:25 am

    Are you reading directly in Chinese, because, if so, I must trust your word over the limitations of Google translator. But otherwise, Google translates the first article's relevant parts as follows:"… an important addition to the Yellow River hinterland Erlitou Ruins. It should be in the Erlitou before or during the same period".(…)"Experts initially identified Shek hilly city sites should be founded in the mid-Yongsan continue until late Longshan from inside early stage, mid-stream region of the Yellow River the Longshan late to a very large settlement in the early Xia Dynasty".However I haven't checked if Yongsan is a distinct culture or a misspelling of Longshan. "… while the image certainly looks like bronzeware, none of the articles mention bronze or any sort of metal".They mention Erlitou and Xia Dynasty, which is Bronze Age. It is true that they make no specific mention to bronzeware by that name but I find the image coherent with Erlitou/Xia adscription.

  16. Maju

    November 3, 2012 at 3:27 am

    I'm going to change Yongsan-Longshan for just Longshan because I can't find any reference to any Chinese Neolithic culture by the name of Yongsan.

  17. Va_Highlander

    November 3, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Reading further, yesterday, I'm inclined to agree. The Ming Dynasty "Dabian Great Wall" in Yulin, Shaanxi, was divided into three sections and the north-east terminus of the middle section was the castle at Gaojiapu. This valley was quite possibly always of great strategic importance due its geography.Bronze peoples did not seem to penetrate the Longshan sphere of influence. If our guess is correct, fortified settlements like this one are probably the reason.

  18. Maju

    November 3, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. Maju

    November 3, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    My apologies to all for my repeated mistakes with Chinese cultures' names. Now I think I finally got it clear and the articles say from mid-Yangshao to Erlitou/Xia, via Longshan – and have written it down that way in the entry's update. I was also a bit confused because, if your brain goes sloppy and writes Yongsan and Langshao instead of Yangshao and Longshan, then you can't find anything when you look for it. It would seem therefore that the city existed from c. 4000 to c. 1500 BCE.

  20. Maju

    November 3, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    What do you mean by "Bronze peoples", did not Longshan (correct spelling) evolve into Erlitou, which is a Bronze Age culture?

  21. Maju

    November 3, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Again I must correct my words: "It would seem therefore that the city existed from c. 4000 to c. 1500 BCE". Not the city but the site. The city probably only existed as such in the latest dates within that period, around 2000 BCE.

  22. DDeden

    November 3, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    city/site(kite-like)/kita(Malay "we"/kota(Malay) fort/souq(Arab)fortified market/sedentaryShinar(Hebrew)=Sumer(Sum)Eridu/(Xia=Shyan=China)Erlitou from same period?, both between major trading rivers, both with good freshwater wells? (Sumerian trading post scenario)

  23. DDeden

    November 3, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    Shimau same derivation

  24. Va_Highlander

    November 3, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    I think China may block Google from translating some sites. I had to copy text from the page, a paragraph or two at a time, and paste into a Google Translate box. Even then, it's high-level guesses left much to be desired."… an important addition to the Yellow River hinterland Erlitou Ruins. It should be in the Erlitou before or during the same period".I'm thinking that should read something like, "…[and that it] is, in addition to Erlitou, a major ancient ruin of the Yellow River hinterland. It must have existed prior to Erlitou or in the same period.""Experts initially identified Shek hilly city sites should be founded in the mid-Yongsan continue until late Longshan from inside early stage, mid-stream region of the Yellow River the Longshan late to a very large settlement in the early Xia Dynasty".I might suggest something like, "Experts tentatively suggest that the Shimao city site should have begun in the middle phase of the Longshan period and continued until the late Longshan period or early stage of the Erlitou period, and that it was a large-scale core settlement of the middle reaches of the Yellow River between the late Longshan period and the early Xia Dynasty".On whether this was a bronze culture, if indeed this site flourished before the Erlitou period, then it probably was not.

  25. Va_Highlander

    November 3, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    My apologies. I seem to have missed a word in my initial transliteration. The above should read instead: "Experts tentatively suggest that construction at the Shimao city site should have begun in the middle phase of the Longshan period and continued until the late Longshan period or early stage of the Erlitou period…"For the record, both of the above instances read, "Longshan" — "dragon mountain" — in the original.

  26. Maju

    November 3, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    You're bordering banishment DD. Quit those nonsense rantings… it's been explained above that Shimao means "stone mound". Linguistics is much more serious than what your crazy mind wants to imagine.

  27. Maju

    November 3, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    I'm totally confused as of now: mid-Yongsan is not mid-Yangshao then?

  28. bfde8a60-7627-11e1-94ed-000bcdcb471e

    November 4, 2012 at 4:27 am

    @Maju, yes I'm reading the Chinese, although that ability may not be perfect.I have no idea what Yongsan is. From the context, Yongsan should be Longshan. 'Yongsan' is the Korean pronunciation of '龍山', which is 'Longshan' in Chinese.

  29. bfde8a60-7627-11e1-94ed-000bcdcb471e

    November 4, 2012 at 4:45 am

    I stand by everything I've written. None of the articles makes any mention of Yangshao. Yangshao is '仰韶' in Chinese and you will not find those characters in the articles. As for the age of the site, the first two articles said starting in 'mid-Longshan' (龙山中期), which would be 2500 BC, if you consider Longshan culture to have existed between 3000 BC and 2000 BC. 'Yongsan' is likely a mistranslation on Google's part, seeing how 'Yongsan' is Korean for 'Longshan', and the translated sentence was 'mid-Yongsan'. Why Google would make that mistake, I do not know. You are correct in that the articles suggest the city is from 2000 BC.

  30. Maju

    November 4, 2012 at 6:55 am

    Alright. I'm following your lead and correcting again the update in that sense. Thanks a lot to you and Highlander for all the leads and explanations.

  31. Va_Highlander

    November 4, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Longshan was not a bronze culture and I haven't seen a solid statement that Erlitou derived directly from Longshan. So, maybe they did, maybe not.By "Bronze peoples", I understand that there exists a complete copper sequence — copper to arsenical bronze to tin bronze — on the borders of China but not within the sphere of Chinese civilization proper. So, while there were apparently bronze peoples to the west, in Xinjiang and Gansu, as well as in Mongolia to the north, if memory serves, neither these peoples nor their technology seem to have penetrated the cultural heartlands of the Wei River valley and the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River.By the beginning of the second millennium, BCE, the Longshan population had steeply declined and the Qijia culture of the upper Yellow River — a horse people and probably the earliest bronze culture in China — seem also to have suffered a drastic reduction in numbers and abandoned the west. The initial phase of the Erlitou site, with its earliest bronze workshops, dates to about this same time.The somewhat obvious conclusion is tempting, to say the least. The same climactic shift that decimated the Indus Valley Civilization might have similarly impacted the Longshan, either directly, as a result of changes in rainfall, or indirectly due to western populations being forced east. In either case, it's conceivable that a declining Longshan population absorbed elements of the Qijia or some similar culture and Erlitou was the result.

  32. Va_Highlander

    November 4, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    I agree on all points.Google's translator leaves much to be desired. I took what it gave me as suggestive, at best, and then turned to one of my favorite cheats, POPjisyo. That utility, and a little experience translating Chinese, will take you surprisingly far.

  33. Maju

    November 4, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    I'd be very surprised to find Bronze Age metallurgy in the Eurasian steppe before 2000 BCE when in Europe (excepted some areas near the Aegean) it begins c. 1800 BCE. For what I can read in Wikipedia, Central Asian Bronze does not begin before c. 2000 BCE. Instead in China there is some bronze tech since much earlier: Majiayao culture (Upper Yellow River, ~3100-2700 BCE), which would be contemporary from the West Asian arch of earliest Bronze at global level. Qijia (~2400-1900 BCE) would seem as derived from Majiayao, maybe via Banshan (~2600-2300 BCE), right? The dates for the Seima-Turbino phenomenon (~1500 BCE, ~2000 BCE the oldest ones I have read) seem quite more recent than the Gansu Bronze and at best contemporary of other Bronze Age cultures in Europe and East Asia.

  34. Maju

    November 4, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    One thing must be said about bronze tech: that arsenic "bronze" (pseudo-bronze) is quite a mediocre material (better than raw copper surely but still not really that great) and that the availability of tin is almost a must. However tin was and is found in large amounts (as cassiterite) only in very specific locations. Interestingly, Wikipedia has a dedicated entry to tin sources in ancient times: shows that meaningful deposits in the Old World were all concentrated in Europe (Iberia, Britain and Germany mostly) and East Asia (mostly SE Asia, from Yunnan to Malaysia). In the Western Old World, this limited tin availability caused surely Greek colonial adventurerism to the Far West (Hesperides), which is reflected in archaeological evidence of cultural influences and also in some Greek legends, notably two of Herakles' works (and arguably the myth of Atlantis). The collapse of the tin routes in the late 2nd millenium BCE, whose details we don't understand well, surely triggered the research and development of steel in Anatolia, allowing for the beginning of the Iron Age. (Well, that was at least the model before it became evident that the Sahelian Iron Age is older than the Anatolian one by several centuries – but it is still likely that both developments are independent anyhow).I conjecture that the Bronze Age of the steppes was reliant on tin provisions from either Europe or SE Asia, making it less likely a cultural source of anything. But then look at Troy and the Aegean you could say, and I'd say that that role looks in the hands of the Gansu Bronze Age cultures in East Asia, although the detail of all this is not well known to me. It's plausible, I'd conjecture, that Gansu cultures were at one end of some Neolithic precursor of the Silk Road, not necessarily going through the steppes but rather through the BMAC (Uzbekistan, etc.), as happened with the historical Silk Road, and that may be related with the flow of know-how (bronze tech) and ideology (megalithism and other pre-Indoeuropean elements like the swastika?) between West Asia and East Asia. In turn it is possible that Gansu became a provider of Yunnanese or Burmese tin to peoples in the steppary belt.I know it's a lot of speculation but one thing seems clear Gansu Bronze pre-dates all other except the West Asian one, which seems roughly contemporary. Steppe Bronze instead seems very conventional in dates, beginning c. 2000 BCE, not before.

  35. DDeden

    November 5, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    More emotional outbursts. No nonsense rantings so far, just ancient river-based links.Shimao/Shomer(Heb)/Sumer-Shinar: piled (cut)stone fort"Zigg-erat" eridu/erech-uruk/jericho/tradepost(store/pile/temple)shor/store/road/routeKalmyk word for salt: shorHebrew word for watchguarded pile: shomer

  36. Va_Highlander

    November 5, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    I've heard quite the opposite, that from a metallurgical standpoint arsenical bronze is not inferior at all. Presumably, the toxicity of arsenic was a problem, not the quality of the final product. In any case, it is the fact of the sequence itself that is relevant, here. I can't comment intelligently on the European Bronze Age, since to my eye it is even more complicated and contentious than the Eastern Bronze. I've tried to avoid it.I honestly don't know whether the Qijia derive from the Majiayao. It seems plausible. I would certainly assume that the Qijia were a reasonably indigenous people.Thanks indirectly to you, I have been looking at the Bronze Age of this region for a while, now, and tend to agree with at least some of what you propose. Western China was indeed already part of an extensive pre-historic trade network, even at this early date. Jade from Hotan was certainly traded eastward to the heartlands of the Yellow River in the Longshan period and also carried westward to the steppes and the Andronovo peoples.From the literature I've seen, though, it seems almost certain that the first bronze people to arrive on the western frontier of the huaxia were Caucasoids that entered the area more-or-less from the north. They seem to have already been a somewhat mixed population with Siberian and Andronovo-like elements. I suspect that interaction between such peoples and native Neolithic cultures gave rise to groups like the Qijia.I think it's at least conceivable that these early Caucasoids were indeed trading with the BMAC, either directly or through intermediaries. The Sintashta, a contemporary and possibly related culture, seem to have been supplying bronze to the Bactrian Margiana complex and it is tempting to imagine that these earliest arrivals in the Tarim came to such an inhospitable place in search of mineral resources — such as copper ore, of which there is plenty in Gansu. It could even be that they found jade in Hotan while prospecting for copper.As for a more direct connection between Central Asia and western China, it is there, obviously, but I think it arrives too late for our purposes. When I first looked at the culture of the desert oases, I expected to find that it had continued to leap-frog, from oasis to oasis, all the way to the Tarim Basin. The evidence, though, is lacking and there seems to have been a gap between the pre-historic lapis-lazuli trade of the Pamirs and the pre-historic jade routes of Hotan. What I've seen so far suggests that Central Asian elements did not arrive in the basin until some centuries after the first Caucasoids appeared.

  37. DDeden

    November 5, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    shock: (ME/MDu) eg. cornshock, pileshoal: shallows due to sandbar eg. pile of sandshare: parts of whole/shoal/full/pile to distribute

  38. Maju

    November 5, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    All you say is nonsense DD. I politely ask you not make any more such comments of farcical "linguistics" that only offend the intelligence of me and most other readers.

  39. bfde8a60-7627-11e1-94ed-000bcdcb471e

    November 5, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Except the "Er" in Eridu is reconstructed to sound like "*njijs"Sum-njijs-idu sounds kinda odd no?

  40. Maju

    November 5, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    I think we can greatly converge to an agreement, Highlander. For example, I never considered arsenic bronze as proper bronze but a succedaneous low quality alloy, however you may well be right and both alloys being comparable. But crucially I fail to see any evidence for this claim you make:"… it seems almost certain that the first bronze people to arrive on the western frontier of the huaxia were Caucasoids that entered the area more-or-less from the north".When I look for any evidence of bronze in the steppe before c. 2000 BCE, I find none. Instead in China (Gansu) there is some. The main "Caucasoid" culture in the area was no doubt Afanasevo, continued by historical Tocharians (via Karasuk and Tagar cultures, which are indeed Bronze Age but post 1500 BCE). But Afanasevo was a Copper Age (Chalcolithic, Eneolithic) culture, not a Bronze Age one. You mention Sintashta, a culture (?) hard to separate from Andronovo, but they are from c. 2100 BCE on, what is still much later than the Gansu Bronze. Sintashta: 2100-1700 BCE, Andronovo: 1800-1400 BCE. … "earliest arrivals in the Tarim"…The earliest Tarim mummy is also from that same age: c. 2000 BCE. I don't think that the migration of Indoeuropean pastoralists to Altai and nearby areas, which is no doubt one of the earliest Indoeuropean offshoots, has any particular relation with bronze in China. If there would be any relation, it is not apparent at all. Having some Marxist historian background, I do appreciate models that emphasize material conditions and motivations. However I also have a strong Chaotic formation and therefore I can also appreciate the value of randomness and the importance of initial conditions. And with Indoeuropean expansions and other (pre-)historical phenomena, we can often find episodes that look more accidental than material-determinist. For example, why would the Kurgan tribals establish themselves in Altai or at the Elbe later on?, so far away from their ancestors' homeland in Samara and the Cossack steppe? Why? We cannot discern any particular reason but I guess that a mix of chance and availability was what placed them there. Why Rome?, one could ask easily. After all it was a backwater city that owed everything to Etruscans (architecture specially), Greeks (much of their religion and culture) and Phoenicians (to whom they copied the design of their first ships) in a region that was pretty much unremarkable in the previous pre- and proto-history. You cannot explain such things only on mere material-determinism: there is chance and human willpower in that as well. Same for the migrations of IE tribals in Central Asia (or elsewhere): if there were material determinants, we cannot easily identify them.And in any case they do not look like the alleged carriers of bronze tech that you suggest: no evidence for that at all.

  41. Maju

    November 5, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    I'd pay no attention to DD, seriously… on risk of all us going crazy. I was about to send all his comments to the spam section but I wanted to let everything super-clear before doing that. Uru is Sumerian for city, iri/ili/uli/uri is an old pan-Mediterranean word for city (Iri-ko, Iri-salem, Ilion, Elis, dozens of Iberian and Basque towns, including modern Basque "(h)iri", Latin urbs, Hebrew ir), even Dravidic has a similar archaic word for city for what they told me (but can't find it right now). But what DD is saying makes zero sense it's a pseudo-linguistic farce that offends intelligence. And that's why I asked him to spare us. So please do not feed the troll.

  42. bfde8a60-7627-11e1-94ed-000bcdcb471e

    November 5, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    Haha..thanks for the clear up Maju.

  43. Va_Highlander

    November 6, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Maju, I think I can address your concerns by answering two questions:– Who were the first people in the Tarim Basin?– When does the Bronze Age begin in Gansu province?The first is probably the easiest to answer. The prevailing opinion in the Chinese archeological community is that an Afanasevo-related people crossed the Altai Mountains, circa 2000 BCE or a bit earlier, as evidenced by the Ke’ermuqi culture of Xinjiang province. Then circa 1800 BCE some of these people moved further south into the Tarim Basin, as evidenced by the earliest burials in the Xiaohe tomb complex. Tool marks left at this site leave little doubt that these people possessed bronze of some kind.If there were some other people present in the basin at some earlier date, no trace of them has come to light so far.The second question is a bit more open to debate. The first bronze object in all of East Asia is a small knife, 12.5 cm, in a copper-tin alloy cast from a jointed mould. It was unearthed at a Majiayao site in Linjia, Dongxiang county, Gansu, and dated to 2900-2740 BCE. This find, if dated correctly, is apparently unique and I find no reports of any comparable objects found among the Majiayao or their regional contemporaries.All authorities known to me state that the Majiayao were a Neolithic culture and, given that this bronze knife was unearthed in the 1970s, the community has had plenty of time to review and revise that assessment. I find this significant.In contrast, all authorities known to me agree that the Qijia were a bronze culture and probably the first in China. Among the metallic artefacts recovered from Qijia sites there are reports of chisels, axes, knives, awls, chariot ornaments, spoons, mirrors, finger-rings, and rectangular-shaped decorations. Clearly, and I think unambiguously, we have before us a true Bronze-Age people. Their successor cultures, including the Siba, Xindian, Machang, Siwa, and Kayue, spread throughout Gansu and north-eastern Qinghai provinces, were even more intensively involved in metallurgy than were their predecessors.On the whole, I feel the preponderance of evidence suggests that the Bronze Age in Gansu begins with the Qijia culture. If and when slag or moulds or some other incontrovertible evidence of a metal industry is found on a Majiayao site, then obviously I shall have to rethink my position.As far as dating the Qijia culture is concerned, Wikipedia claims a range of 2400-1900 BCE but I'm seeing other reports suggesting 2000-1600 BCE or even later. Nicola Di Cosmo, supposedly a source for the Wiki article, in fact states that the Qijia may date to as early as 2000 BCE. Zhang Zhongpei, who in 1987 proposed a periodization of the Qijia, seemed to think that copper first appears in the material record in the first half of the second millennium, with some contexts extending into the second half.So, once again, given the preponderance of evidence before me, I can state with some confidence that in Gansu provence the Bronze Age begins no earlier than ca 2000 BPE. Combined with the answer to that first question, above, this is entirely consistent with my previous claim, that it seems almost certain that the first bronze people to arrive on the western frontier of the huaxia were Caucasoids that entered the area more-or-less from the north.

  44. Maju

    November 6, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    Alright. I see that you have looked a lot on the matter but I can't help feeling that you're leaning the scales of evidence on one direction, favoring earliest possible dates for IE bronze cultures in East Turkestan and questioning the early ones for Chinese bronze cultures in Gansu. I don't know enough to judge so I'll leave it at that. But I don't feel any particular sympathy nor see clear weight of evidence for your model. We must not forget that there is at least one other case of independent invention of bronze tech in pre-Columbian Mexico and also another case of independent invention of steel tech in the Niger basin. Finally it's possible that the notion of bronze tech traveled from West Asia to China prior your Indoeuropean examples that are very borderline in matters of timing. There are clearly other cultural flows from West to East (like the already mentioned Megalithism, which was already fully in the Bronze Age when it arrived to the Caucasus) which are clearly not Indoeuropean and must have flowed by other routes, probably before full IE expansion in Central Asia. But only solid dates and clear material evidence can lean the scales in either direction.

  45. DDeden

    November 7, 2012 at 12:36 am

    re. reconstruction: "*njijs" "niece"?I will say that uru/b, elba/ebla/elam etc. etc. derived from apa/campfire.Har-apa

  46. DDeden

    November 7, 2012 at 1:20 am

    [from wikipedia: eriduEridu (Cuneiform: NUN.KI 𒉣 𒆠; Sumerian: eriduki; Akkadian: irîtu)"According to the Sumerian kinglist Eridu was the first city in the World. The opening line reads,"[nam]-lugal an-ta èd-dè-a-ba [eri]duki nam-lugal-la" "When kingship from heaven was lowered, the kingship was in Eridu."is this faulty? Where is "*njijs"? Is it a variant of NUN.KI?

  47. Maju

    November 7, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Last extreme warning: DD: if you wish to discuss your fringe linguistics, please do it in your blogs and don't spam mine with junk.

  48. Va_Highlander

    November 7, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    You may feel as you wish. I see myself simply applying Occam's Razor in the course of constructing the best model. As a pretend scientist, I'm fully aware that this model must be wrong, at least to some extent. As the saying goes, if you're right all of the time then you're doing it wrong.I have no particular reason to doubt the prevailing opinion among Chinese archaeologists familiar with the evidence and, with all due respect, you are not giving me reason to do so. When they say that they see evidence of similar metallurgic traditions on both sides of the Altay, I have no particular reason to doubt it. I have no reason to doubt the dates that they're assigning to the relevant population events. There was a preliminary claim by the latest investigating team that the oldest graves at Xiaohe date to ca 2000 BCE, and not 1800 BCE as it currently stands. I have not seen a follow-up but, if true, that fact seems to tip the scales in my favor a bit more.To my mind, the model does make sense. The easiest east-west corridor is the Eurasian steppe belt. Once the western Eurasians had horses and wagons, and the metallurgical and technical skill required to use the two together efficiently, they could cover staggering distances reasonably unmolested, prospecting for mineral resources as they went. To my mind, nomadic peoples have always kept an eye out for useful stones since at least the Paleolithic. It wasn't necessarily some new behavior. It was an ancient behavior made more effective by new technology. Sintashta suggests that they were able to exploit the resources they found on an industrial scale.Understand that I don't really have a dog in this fight. In fact, as I say, I had actually assumed that metallurgy came to the Far East a bit earlier and from the west, from Central Asia and not Siberia. But this is where the data leads us at this point in time.I should say, "most of the data", since there is something that seems to tilt the scales your way: the sheep people.From very ancient times, the Chinese spoke of the Qiang, literally, the "sheep people", that lived to their west in Gansu. The Siba, a succeeding culture to the Qijia, were apparently a sheep people as well, with sheep figuring prominently in their iconography and industry. Though Qiang came to be used for several peripheral groups, archaeologists in China are starting to think that the Siba may have been the original sheep people. Now, what fascinates is that they were highly skilled metalworkers and among the objects produced is a macehead, a rather sophisticated, multi-piece casting, adorned with four projecting goat's heads. The Eastern art expert Emma C Bunker has apparently examined this piece and relates it to other artifacts from Bactria in a previous era. I find that most suggestive.It's possible that early contact was made by a nomadic or semi-nomadic people from Central Asia, who might have also entered the Tarim Basin looking for rocks. As I understand it, the researchers looking at this area are generally open to the possibility of multiple population events.

  49. Va_Highlander

    November 7, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    For the record, murky as Chinese etymology can be, Shimao — 石峁 — apparently has a very clear meaning. The first character, 石, means rock or stone. It's an only slightly stylized rendering of the original pictogram, a boulder lying at the foot of a cliff.The second character, 峁, is obscure and seldom used, but has only one meaning: a rounded mound of yellow earth, as found on the Loess Plateau of northern China.The idea of taking the Pinyin Latinization of the Mandarin pronunciation of 石峁, and then looking for similar sounding words in other languages, is so silly on so many levels it's hard to know where to begin. For one thing, it is doubtful that the residents of Shimao village pronounce 石峁 that way, even if they read and can speak Mandarin. For another, the original inhabitants of this Neolithic settlement did not speak Mandarin, either, and in their day it looked like a city, not a rocky mound of dirt, and they would have naturally called it something else.

  50. DDeden

    November 7, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Thanks, I appreciate the etymological rendering. I await a reference for the reconstruction of Eridu.


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