Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Prehistoric Beifudi site

The Prehistoric Beifudi site near Yixian in Hebei Province, China, is the excavation of a recently discovered prehistoric Neolithic village that Chinese archaeologists say is one of the most important sites found so far.

This archaeological site was voted Number One in the Top Ten most outstanding archaeological findings in 2004 by Chinese archaeologists in their annual poll.


The most significant discovery in the first phase of the site's excavation is the large number of pottery masks in the shape of human and animal faces, the oldest extant carvings to date. A dozen carved clay masks, in cat, monkey and pig as well as human likenesses, have been unearthed at Beifudi. One mask of a human face has a mouth and nose in carved relief and the eyes are pierced out. The first engraved clay artifacts ever found in ruins of this age, the masks add several millennia to China’s history of . Although the beliefs of these Neolithic people are not known, the early Chinese almost certainly performed ritual ceremonial sacrifices and burned burials on the raised platforms, as both human and animal burials have been found. The masks are believed to be part of the ritual performances accompanying sacrifices and burials.

Excavations in the second phase, dating to 6500–7000 BC include pottery and stone tools, s and small-mouth-double-handled pots.


Drawing on archaeology, geology and anthropology, modern scholars do not see the origins of the Chinese civilization or Chinese history as one story but rather the history of the interactions of many different cultures and many different ethnic groups that influenced each other's development. As the prehistoric Beifudi site is in northern China where the climate is drier than in the south, it is likely that this culture cultivated millet although no direct evidence of cultivation has been found. The finding of stone tools for food processing does not reliably prove that the culture had developed agriculture as such tools were used before the cultivation of crops.

The importance of the prehistoric Beifudi site lies in its potential to provide archaeological information on the beliefs and ceremonial practices of this ancient culture through the ancient carved artifacts found there, as well as further understanding of the beginnings of Chinese architecture.

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