From 2012 to 2017, Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in conjunction with Fujian Museum, Mingxi County Museum conducted an archaeological excavation to Prehistoric Nanshan Site in Mingxi County, Sanming City of Fujian Province. The main excavation was focused on the top of the mountain, as well as Cave No .4 and Cave No.3.
Distant View of the site
At the foot of Mount Nanshan, there were four caves (Numbered as Cave No.1 to Cave No.4) left. Through excavation, cultural accumulations were found in Cave No.3 and Cave No.4, with an excavation area of about 40 square meters. The thickness of the cultural accumulation in Cave No.3 was about 1.6 meters, and that of Cave No.4 was about 4 meters. At the top of the mountain, 400 square meters were excavated, and the cultural accumulation was about 1.5 meters’ thick.
According to the overlying stratum relationship and the assemblage, 5 cultural periods were divided, from 5800BP to 3500BP. Cultural deposits from the first to the third phases were distributed inside the caves, while the fourth and the fifth were mainly distributed at the mountaintop.
The first culture phase (5800-5300 BP), where archaeologists have found evidences of prehistoric human activity surfaces, fireplace as well as pottery shard, stone-tool, horn implement, animal bones and other cultural and natural relics.
The second culture phase (5300 to 4800BP), where archaeologists have found some evidences of prehistoric human activity surfaces, fireplaces. The activity surfaces was not in a regular shape, with about 5 meters’ long and 4 meters’ wide. The middle part was burnt soil and became hard, with a large amount of ash around. Assemblage included pottery shard, stone tools, bone tools and so on.
Tomb M3 M4 and M5
The third culture phase (4800 to 4600BP), where archaeologists have found 4 tombs, all preserved human bones. The burials included extended burial and flexed burial, and no funeral object was found. Pottery, stone tool and bone tool were found in cultural layer. In the second and third cultural phases’ accumulations, a large amount of plant remains were unearthed, with a majority of plant seeds, in 38 different types, in total of about 5,570,000 grains. The largest amount of the carbonized seeds were rice (Oryza sativa), foxtail millet (Setaria italica) and broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum); besides, plum, persimmon, kiwi fruit, grape and other fruit seeds were also found.
Carbonized foxtail millet (Setaria italica)
Carbonized broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum)
The fourth culture phase (4600 to 4200 BP) where archaeologists have found 2 prehistoric water reservoirs, 4 tombs, dozens of ash pits and post-holes and other remains, as well as pottery, stone tool, bone tool and so on. All the tombs were earthen shaft tombs, without any human bones. The prehistoric water reservoirs were nearly the same in construction and shape, with about 4 meters’ long and 2 meters’ wide, in the shape of irregular rectangle. Around the reservoirs there were post holes, which were speculated to be a building here.
The fifth culture phase (4200 to 3500BP), where archaeologists have found ash pits, post holes and other remains, as well as a large amount of pottery shard, stone tool, bone tool and etc.
Potteries found in Nanshan site
Few cultural remains were found in the first phase, and the relationship with later phases was not clear. While, the continuity of the second and third phases was obvious, for a large number of polished black pottery were found in both; both patterns were in the characteristics of cord, multi-rings and twin-rings; both had shapes of Fu (cauldron), jar, Dou (stemmed cup). The cultural remains in the third phase were developed on the basis of those in the second phase. The characteristic of the fourth continued that of the third, both unearthed polished black pottery, and similar rim shape of objects. However, to the burial customs and implement combination, there were differences. The funeral objects were appeared in groups (tripod-Ding, high-handled stemmed cup, jar), showing the changes of cultural characteristics after human beings moved to the top of the mountain.
The fifth phase turned into the Bronze Age, the vessels’ types, shapes and patterns changed a lot, for example, a large number of black-glazed potteries, grey potteries with carved pattern, proto-celadon, color-glazed potteries and etc.
The great archaeological achievements of Nanshan cave site had significance of constructing the archaeological and cultural sequence of the Neolithic in the northwest of Fujian province; it is the first cave-dwelling agrarian society ever found in China. The finding offers a new perspective for prehistoric study and discussing the origin of archaeological culture of the Bronze Age in Fujian area; it also had valuable materials for understanding important academic questions about the prehistoric human behavior model, subsistence pattern, human activities, population migration and communication; Fujian and Taiwan prehistoric cultural relationship; and the origin and diffusion of Austronesian. (Translator: Wang Jue Photo: Archaeology Press IA CASS)