Dashigu City of the Xia Dynasty, middle and late Erlitou Culture in Henan
Geographical Location: Suburbs of Zhengzhou, the capital of Central China's Henan Province
Period: Xia Dynasty (2100-1600BC)
Excavation period: March 2002-December 2003
The Zhengzhou Municipal Cultural Relics Archeological Research Institute, led by Wang Wenhua
About ten years ago(From March 2002 to December 2003), the Zhengzhou Municipal Cultural Relics Archeological Research Institute Zhengzhou was busy excavating Dashigu City. The site was discovered in the suburbs of Zhengzhou, capital of Central China's Henan Province. Archaeologists have confirmed that the Dashigu(大石谷Dàshígŭ) cultural relics of the Xia Dynasty date back to the mid and late Erlitou Culture, which was part of the Bronze Age (21st century-17th century BC).
The flat, rectangular site consists of two parts: the city wall and moat. Most parts of the city wall were discovered nearly 1 meter below the earth's surface. City wall relics were constructed of several layers of soil, suggesting that the wall was either renewed or restored on several occasions. The two moats, which run parallel, are 2-2.8 meters deep.
Foundations, tombs, ash pits and ash ditches were discovered inside the site, mainly from the second, third and early fourth phase of the Erlitou Culture. Large quantities of earthen drainpipe fragments were also found in the ash ditches.
What interests archeologists most is a ring moat from the early Shang Dynasty (1600-1100BC) that lies between the city wall and the moats of the Xia Dynasty, running parallel to the Xia moats. Abundant remains from the early Shang Dynasty were also discovered inside the ring moat, which suggests that the city remained an important residential settlement during that period.
Dashigu City of the Xia Dynasty is the only Erlitou Culture town discovered so far in China, filling in the archaeological gaps among the discoveries of Xia Dynasty city sites. It provides precious material for the study of town developments in ancient China, the social structure of the Xia Dynasty and perhaps even the origin of China's civilization.
The ancient city is believed to have served as a military city or the capital of a subordinate kingdom of the Xia Dynasty due to its great strategic importance.
Since an abundance of historical remains of the Xia and Shang dynasties were discovered at the site, the discovery will be of great significance into the research on the relations between the Xia and the Shang dynasties, which are still unclear.
Erlitou Culture (1900-1500BC)
With an area of about 3 square kilometers, the Erlitou Site lies in Yanshi, Henan Province, consisting of the city ruins of the late Xia Dynasty. Remains such as a palace, residential area, pottery and bronze workshops, and tombs were excavated there. Many stone, pottery, jade ware and bronze cultural relics were also unearthed at the site, among which the jue is known so far as the earliest bronze vessel excavated in China. The Erlitou Culture is named after the site.
The Erlitou Culture of the central plains of Northern China was the first state-level society in China, and its remains are believed to be linked with those of the Xia Dynasty. Remains of palatial buildings, royal tombs and paved roads were uncovered, leading to theories about the site representing a Xia capital.
The society employed advanced bronze technology. The earliest urbanization in the Bronze Age in China emerged during the Erlitou Culture. Some 38 calibrated radiocarbon dates derived from the Erlitou Site in Henan indicate that this culture may have flourished between 1900 and 1500BC. Erlitou is the largest among all of its contemporary sites in China, and sites containing Erlitou material assemblages have been found over a very broad region - mainly Henan, Southern Shanxi, Eastern Shaanxi and Hubei provinces.
Erlitou was characterized by a centralized and internally specialized government, evidenced by a great concentration of palatial foundations and various craft workshops in an urban center (Erlitou).