YAOSHANG (Chine) : A Settlement Site of Qin-Han Times in Meixian County
Yaoshang: A Settlement Site of Qin-Han Times in Meixian County, Shaanxi
With the Wei River lying to its south and Taiyuan Plain to its north, Yaoshang site is located northeast to the Changxing Town, Meixian County, Shaanxi Province. In October 2009 and again since April 2010 until now, the Shaanxi Provincial Academy of Archaeology together with the Cultural Center of Meixian County have conducted some extensive surveys, drillings, and excavations in the area. They have found a Qin-Han site which contains a wealth of cultural remains and have confirmed the territory of the site. An area measuring more than 2300 square meters has been excavated up to date, while an area of 70000 square meters has been surveyed. In the site, the archaeologists have cleared 197 refuse pits, eight wells, four ditches, six urn burials, and two tombs.
The densely distributing refuse pits show some complicated overlapping and penetrating relations. Typologically, these pits can be divided into three kinds. The first kind includes 55 pits of square and rectangular shape with flat floors and smooth walls. The second kind includes 80 irregular-shaped pits with floors of varied shapes. Although randomly made, quite a few of the pit floors have the shape of the bottom of a frying pan. The third kind includes 62 round and oval-shaped pits. Plenty of pottery utensils for daily uses including jars, caldrons, basins, and plates as well as pottery building materials such as tiles of different forms and flooring bricks have been found from these pits.
Eight wells have been found in the site, which may be classified into two types according to the shapes of the wellheads: the round and the rectangular. Alternatively the wells can be divided into three types according to the ways their walls are built: the shaft pit type, shaft pit with brick walls, and walling crib type. In addition, three kilns have been discovered, which are located in the east of the excavated area and mostly co-exist with the wells. In the vicinity of the kilns and inside their filling soil have been found plenty of defect wares, including pan and roll roofing tiles as well as daily utensils such as pottery cups and caldrons. Moreover, from some pits have been found a group of fragmentary molds. They include not only outer molds for making tile ends, figurines, and bronzes but also tools for pottery manufacture such as rackets, blocks, and pads.
The above-listed remains and artifacts discovered within indicate that this area may have had something to do with pottery manufacture with the wells functioning as supporting apparatuses.
Among the four ditches found so far, three are juxtaposed from east to west and are located in the middle of the excavated area. The fourth one is located in the east of the excavation area. The ditches are two to four meters wide and 1.5 to three meters deep. All ditch heads are irregular in shape. The ditches are often penetrated by refuse pits. Plenty of fragmentary potteries and building materials have been found from these ditches.
A variety of pottery utensils have been discovered from Yaoshang site, with jar, basin, steamer, caldron, and oval-shaped trough being the dominant types. The many varied building materials such as pan and roll roofing tiles, flooring bricks, and hollow bricks also characterize the contents of the site. Decoration patterns on the face of the pan and roll roofing tiles include rope patterns, massive rope patterns, and interlaced rope patterns, while patterns on the back of the tiles include plain surface, pocking marks, square patterns, massive rope patterns, and slender rope patterns. The tiles are cut either from outside or from inside. The flooring tiles are mostly decorated with fret patterns as well as diamond patterns. In addition some hollow bricks stamped with the inscription长生未央 have also been found. Some pottery fragments are also inscribed with such characters as 南舍, 斄亭, 日利, and 霸陵过氏□, among others.
Hundreds of tile ends have been discovered during the excavation. Most of them are decorated. These tile ends are usually divided into four subdivisions with a single line or double lines. In the interior decoration area are square patterns, bosses, and try square shaped patterns, while the outer zones are decorated with cloud swirls and mushroom clouds. Tile ends inscribed with characters such as 长乐未央, 千秋万岁, and 利 have also been found.
On the basis of the features of the pottery and building materials, the site may be datable to the late Warring States to late Eastern Han and according to the ancient texts, the area is where the county seat of Meixian was located in Han times. (Translator: Wang Yudong)