Wangjinglou (Chine) - Ancient City Sites of the Erlitou and Erligang Cultures


New Discoveries at Wangjinglou, Xinzheng: Ancient City Sites of the Erlitou and Erligang Cultures


Chinese Archaeology 

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       The Wangjinglou Site is located to the east of the Wangjinglou Dam and six kilometers northwest of Xinzheng City, Henan Province. The site was discovered in the sixties of the last century. Henan Provincial Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity did some tentative excavations, identifying it as a site mainly of Xia and Shang dynasties. Zhengzhou City Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity conducted extensive drillings and excavations at the site in September, 2010. The exaction indicates that the ancient accumulations belong mainly to the Erlitou and Shang Cultures. The most significant discoveries include city walls together with the moat of the Erlitou Culture, the inner city walls, inner moat, outer city walls, and outer moat of the Erligang Culture. Together they constitute another important archaeological discovery of Xia and Shang times.


       City site of the Erligang Culture: Within the site are the remains of the city walls, moat, city gates, roads, pound earth foundations, small-scale house foundations, and pits. The near square city site is situated beneath the present ground, measuring 370 thousand square meters. The east wall, the east section of the north wall, the middle section of the south wall, and the four corners are relatively well preserved. The moat is situated right next to the city walls. To the south of the east wall are found a city gate and a road. The moat becomes亚-shaped when it passes by the city gate. To judge from its composition and structure, we may infer that the gate have a function similar to that of the later “Protective City” (wengcheng). The fact that the gate and the road were destroyed by a ditch of the Baijiazhuang Phase, Shang dynasty indicates that the Erligang Cultural city at Wangjinglou had been abandoned during the Baijiazhuang Phase.
      Seven small house foundations have also been discovered. Their passageways are all oriented toward the southwest direction and the houses can be classified into the single room type and the multiple room type. Six-five pits, used as cellars and borrow pits, have been found. They are circular, oval, and irregular in shape.
      The varieties of objects excavated from the city site of the Erligang Culture include bronze, jade, primitive porcelain, pottery, stone, and bone objects. Among them, the bronze utensils were found in the center of the site in the sixties and the seventies of the last century. Typologically, they include lei containers, gu goblets, a yue battle-axe, ben chisels, and pan plates. Up to date, the yue axe is the largest of the kind made in Xia and Shang dynasties. The main type of the primitive porcelain objects is zun. The pottery types include li (caldron), zun (container), pen (basin), gui (basket), dou (sacrificial vessel), guan (jar), and gang (vat), among others. The types of the stone objects are, mainly, yue (battle axe), fu (hatchet), chan (spade), lian (sickle), and knife. The bone objects can be typified into zan (hair pin), zhen (needle), and zhui (stabber). 


      City Site of the Erlitou Culture:Within the site have been found the city walls, moat, house foundations, and pits, among other remains. The east wall and the northeast corner of the city walls have been discovered. The east and south ditches section indicate that the base of the walls is destroyed by the moat of the Erligang city site. The archaeological drillings reveal that most of the moat is preserved outside the east city wall. The founding time of the city is tentatively dated to the second phase of the Erlitou Culture. To judge from the fact that the base of the city walls is destroyed by the moat of the first phase of the lower stratum of the Erligang Culture and the fact that up to now very few remains of the fourth phase of the Erlitou Culture have been found, we hypothesize that at the latest the city be abandoned in the fourth phase of the Erlitou Culture.
      Two house foundations have been discovered. The positive-directioned I F1 faces south. Its west section is destroyed by a pit of the lower stratum of the Erligang Culture and its north section is destroyed by a Han tomb. The house is 10 meters wide from south to north and 11 meters long from east to west. It consist of four rooms, showing a 田 shape. The rooms are linked through passageways. The 22 pits can be classified as circular, oval, and irregular in shape. They functioned as cellars and borrow pits.
      The objects excavated from the site include bronze, jade, pottery, and stone objects. The types of the bronze objects include he (wine warmer), jue (pitcher), jia (cup), and ge (dagger). The main type of the jade objects is ge (dagger). The main types of the pottery objects include jar with clay-laced mouth, deep-abdomened jar, zeng steamer, pen basin, basin with scored surface, zun container, and li caldron. The stone objects are spades and axes.  
An outer city and an outer moat have also been discovered.
      The discoveries of the Erlitou and Erligang Cultures at Wangjinglou are significant for studying the socio-politics, military, and urban construction in the late Xia and early Shang dynasties.
The city site of the Erlitou Culture at Wangjinglou not only provides some new materials for studying the city sites of Shang dynasty. It can also be counted as some new evidence for resolving the thorny problems in dating the Xia, Shang, and Zhou periods.  

 (Translator: Wang Yudong)