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New Achievement Made in Archaeological Excavation on Matengkong Site in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province

From:Chinese Archaeology NetWriter:Date:2019-09-20

From 2016 to 2018, a salvage excavation was implemented on the Matengkong Site, located in Xi’an’s Yanta District, Shaanxi Province, with a present area about 30 thousand square meters. There were 393 tombs, 38 urns, 21 ditches, 21 pottery kilns, 54 houses, one bronze-ware cellar, three pathways and more than 1,500 ash pits of different periods unearthed, from the Neolithic Age, Eastern Zhou, to dynasties of Qin, Han, Sui, Tang and Qing. The cultural-layer accumulation could be divided into six parts of different periods, from late Yangshao Culture of the Neolithic Age to dynasties of Eastern Zhou, Qin, Han, Sui and Tang and the late Ming and Qing dynasties, among which the cultural relics were mostly of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty.

Part of the warring state cemetery

A remaining part of a surrounding trench of the late Yangshao Culture settlement, about 88 meters long, 10 meters wide and 2.2 meters deep, was found in the north of the Site, inside of which there were houses, ash pits, pottery kilns and tombs discovered. The houses were all of the semi-crypt style, with accumulations of different periods after being used for a long time, among which the biggest F131 was occupying almost 70 square meters. Around the housing site, owners of the 34 tombs of the late Yangshao Culture were buried heads to the south, feet to the north and supine extended without burial furniture or potteries, but with a few bone hairpins, ceramic rings and stone wares, including shovels, adzes, axes, and battle-axes. While M1257 had stone shovels and battle-axes buried along with the dead only. The feature of the late Yangshao Culture surrounding trench settlement was found in central Shaanxi for the first time.  

 Pre-historic house foundation F127、F129

The fourth and fifth cultural layers of Eastern Zhou Dynasty were the thickest ones accumulated on the Site with the most relics. In the early time, the dwelling site and cemetery were settled in the north and south respectively. Relics were found in the dwelling sites, such as houses, semi-crypts, cellar pits, ash pits, pottery kilns, ditches, tombs, urns, etc. The semi-crypt was the most characteristic architect of the Site, structure of which could be divided into two categories, rectangle with round corners and round. The trampling surfaces formed by movements at the bottom of the houses were blurred. While there were grooves and corresponding shallow holes on the walls of pits away from the bottoms. And it could be inferred from the above that there were logs or planks hanging near the bottoms of the houses as frameworks. In the north of the dwelling site, about 270 Qin-style tombs of Eastern Zhou Dynasty were cleared in the cemetery, where the burial style and objects were the same with those in the western part of central Shaanxi. Tombs with clear burial style were all flexed buried, except the one buried head to the west, feet to the east and supine extended, with a tripod, a steamer and a basin, totally three bronze wares. Li pots of the Spring and Autumn Period had a few columns. The earliest tombs could be dated back to the mid Spring and Autumn Period, during the same period or a little bit later than the time when the dwelling site was formed. The cultural layer of the Spring and Autumn Period on the Matengkong Site began to come into being during the same time when Duke Wu of Qin State established Du County during the mid Spring and Autumn Period or a little bit earlier than that.

Northern cemetery

In the northeast of the excavated area on the Site, there was a housing site with tripods, bathing jars and basins, totally three cellar-stored bronze wares of Chu style of the Warring States. The construction might have been related to the end of the Qin State. Inside the Qin State site in central and southern Shaanxi, the very first discovery of cellar-stored bronze wares of Chu style from the late Warring States to Qin Dynasty reflects that there were close cultural exchanges between Qin and Chu states since the late Warring States.

Bronze ware storge pit H1445

On the third cultural layer of the Tang Dynasty, building materials, such as wall bases of large constructions, Chiwen (an ornament on roof ridge in the shape of a legendary animal) and eaves tiles, remains of multi-connected stoves and pebble paths, and one pottery Buddha head put inside of a clay pot unearthed from an ash pit were discovered, the feature of which indicates that it might have been one of the Buddhist temples in Chang’an suburbs of the Tang Dynasty.   

Bronze Tripod-Ding

The excavation on Matengkong Site brought more new information about the culture of prehistoric middle and upper Chan River, Eastern Zhou, Qin, Sui and Tang dynasties. The discovery of partial surrounding trench in the north of the Site gave new information on the surrounding trench settlement in Xi’an of the prehistoric period. And the excavation in tombs and housing site of the late Yangshao Culture gave new clues to the research in the settlement distributions, burial customs, races, ethnic groups and stratifications of the same period; while the excavation in tombs and housing foundations of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty was the most comprehensive one in Qin State settlement in central Shaanxi, which brought new information on research in distributions, transitions and constructions of lower-level settlement out of town during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty; and the discoveries of large building foundation site of the Tang Dynasty and Buddhist relics brought new information on the temple distributions in southeastern region outside Chang’an of the Sui and Tang dynasties.(Translator:Yuan yuan)