EXCAVATION OF A NEOLITHIC ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE IN HUNAN
PROVINCE, LIXIAN COUNTY, MENGXI, BASHIDANG
PEI, Anping & YIN, Jianshun
Hunan Institute of Archaeology, Changsha, China
1996 12th issue of Hunan Archaeology under "Cultural Features"
(scanned by Monica Wu; translated by Monica & Co Co Tsao; edited by George Leir, Co Co & Bryan Gordon.
English abstract shortened from original)
Abstract: The archaeological site of Bashidang is related to Pengtoushan culture on
morphologically similar pottery, although some traits suggest it is a little later at 7,100-7,540 C14
years ago. Archaeologists from this Institute excavated for two seasons in 1993-4, bringing
important attention to a moat and wall around the site. The moat was probably excavated before
wall construction, or perhaps concurrently. This site on the middle Yangtze was constructed as
early as 7,500 years ago, throwing light on city origins and ancient civilization in the area.
Bashidang in Hunan Province was opened in 1985 when a general cultural survey revealed
a Neolithic tool. Having excavated the Pengtoushan site in 1988 this Institute saw much in
common in character and period.
In autumn, 1993, the Hunan Institute of Archaeology in Huitong city supplied a class of
students specializing in archaeology to carry out the first formal excavation of Bashidang,
opening 15 pits (3 large) in a total area of 405 sq. m. On this occasion they found a settlement
within a wall and moat. For further clarification of the nature, age and scope of the site, the
Institute arranged to excavate in spring, 1994, with 6 pits and 2 trenches in another 182 sq. m.
The above summarizes both excavations. This article describes only T1 and its surrounding
wall, plus the contents of the surrounding area like the moat. As others will excavate outside, it is
expected that studies will be reconciled once detailed reports are in.
1. LOCATION IN LIXIAN COUNTY
Wufu village and its early landform and archaeological site is 20 km from Mengxi town. It
is on the Li branch of the Cen River (Fig. 1), both in the Wulingshan drainage system and
Dongting Lake basin within the northern boundary of the Lixian Plain. The site extends about 3
km north, covering Quaternary Pleistocene red clay. North is a plain draining to the middle
Yangtze, the south drained by the Li and Cen Rivers. Topography is open smooth ground, with
many rivers, streams and fish ponds.
Bashidang has a gentle northwest slope, rising about 33 m above its southeast. Within a
village, it is crossed by a 36 m wide level road and canal (Fig. 2).
Coring shows the site is on yellow-brown Quaternary or Late Pleistocene clay loam
extending beyond the site’s periphery and belonging to an ancient river terrace. Bashidang
descends from west to east; the west about 1.8 m higher, and slightly undulating on its modern
Bashidang is bordered now by an earshaped fish pond, the site of a surrounding moat
bordering an ancient river. The old high ground has steep banks, a north bank 1 m higher than an
undisturbed south bank. Land south of the river inclines southward about 80 cm, the south bank
ca. 60 cm higher than the north, the west bank highest and east moat part indistinct. West, north
and south moats are continuous, with winding flow to the east. Moat diameter is about 100 m.
2. INTRODUCTION TO T1 MATERIAL
To clarify settlement nature and age within the wall and moat, one must understand
dwellings, their culture, nature and age. As excavation backdirt covered the ground and was
homogenized on backfilling, one must choose a study section to visualize the whole site
simultaneously. This paper uses T1 as representative section, followed by an introduction.
Presently, the wall is as follows (Fig. 3: e.g., T1 facing north):
Layer 1 is modern surface soil, namely agricultural topsoil about 15-20 cm thick.
Layer 2 is Schungite ochre. Soil texture is soft but has a few nodules of iron and
manganese, with thickness about 10-15 cm.
Layer 3 is light gray and 10-15 cm. thick; with harder soil texture with a few finely ground
particles of iron and manganese and bright old pottery sherds.
Layer 4 is light gray brown, with harder soil texture and thickness about 15-20 cm.
Layer 5 is deep grayish-brown 9-13 cm thick ochre. The hard soil texture has Tang and
Song dynasty sherds.
Layers 6 and 7 are absent at the north wall, so do not convey information.
Layer 8 is yellowish-brown ochre, slightly less brown, with massive iron and manganese
nodules. Soil texture is hard, with thickness about 20-25 cm.
Layer 9 is deep brown and about 20 cm thick. Soil texture is looser with a few sherds.
Layer 10 has two sublayers.
Sublayer 10a of 10-15 cm shallow dark gray ochre has hard soil texture of the Pengtoushan
culture, with more excavated sherds of cord-impressed black unfinished pottery. Utensil
decorative design is cordmarked chaotically. Distinct utensil types include deep midsection pot,
high-collar pot, pottery bowl, base, support, etc.
Sublayer 10b of 20-25 cm hard black ochre has pottery like that of 10b, but more plentiful
and with a few tubular ornaments and flint tools.
Layer 11 is 15 cm dark gray ochre of loose soil texture with fewer sherds than layer 10.
Layer 12 is 5-10 cm light gray to black fine textured ochre with a few sherds and broken
Layer 13 of 5-10 cm light gray-yellow soil is 165-175 cm below surface with rare artifacts.
Below layer 13 is dark gray sterile soil with huge clumps with dark brown iron-manganese
In collecting all excavated material from the site centre, we also gathered many charcoal
and soil specimens and developed multi-disciplinary dating techniques.
3. ANCIENT REMAINS
Ancient T1 remains are a gray pit, moat, partial postholes and red burnt soil, etc. (Fig. 4).
3.1. Gray pit
Three pits (H6, H7, H9) of round or irregular shape are about 15-25 cm deep. H6 under
layer 10b and breaking layer 11 is irregular in shape, with a diameter of 210 cm and depth of
15-23 cm. Excavated pottery include a tubular pot, a small-mouthed pot with deep midsection,
one bowl each with shallow or deep midsections, support, etc., all complete. One pot has a
mouth, residual foot, midsection and base indicating a tripod. H9 under layer 11 and breaking
layer 12 is of irregular 150 cm round shape and 10 cm depth. Another pot has a residual tripod
Only one discovery (G3), extending northeast near the side of T4, is under 10b layer and
breaks layer 11. Its shape is irregular, with long straight sections, but assumes an arc in the entire
observed excavation. The moat deposit is rich in large sherds and flint tools, including a
high-collared pot, leg support, etc. Among these, the mouth of the pot is decorated with five
stamped circles; the middle part has a thick square grid pattern.
3.3. House remains
A dwelling at T1 was destroyed and perhaps reconstructed as a habitation, as seen in a
partial posthole and a portion of red burnt soil.
Postholes: Five occur, nearly round, with diameters of 20-40 cm and depth of 10 cm. In
general, posthole fill is loose ochre, with a periphery of hard granulated red-burnt soil. A few
sherds or broken stones are in some postholes, but their distribution is very difficult to infer from
Only part of the red burnt soil survives and is of diverse shape. It is hard, with a central
thickness of 4 cm and edge of 2 cm. The opening layer and posthole positions are alike, all under
layer 10b. Their age should resemble the posthole and belong to the oldest house remains.
Site pottery is always characteristically simple, plain or primitive. It is mainly pressed
charcoal-red-brown pottery with a few sandy-red pots or pressed charcoal-grayish-brown pots.
Types are similar, changing perceptibly in round base and including large- and small-mouths,
deep midsections, cylindrical or round midsections, high-collars, high-collar & double-eared,
with bowl, base, support and tripod, etc. Manufacture is rough, not neat, by kneading and
As pottery quality and basic color is more or less uniform, this description will not be
Although pottery is mainly pressed charcoal-red-brown pottery, it is partly sandy, but sand
may not have been intentionally mixed since there are few grains. Pottery clay is impure and
except for outer supports or bases, other kinds of artificial mix include many rice husks, rough
rice or other organic matter, with the inside being black or deep gray, while the outside is all red,
red-brown or ash-brown. Surface quality is delicate, with a 1 mm thickness mostly peeling off,
revealing a gray-brown inner color. Its outside surface is made either by first using a fired slip on
the inner lining or a coloured mineral glaze. The latter produces highly-coloured pottery such as
plates and double-eared, high-collared pots. Most are red or white inside and outside, while some
have one or the other.
Most pots are grainy, some all over the surface, with plainware less common. Decorative
utensil design is mainly (ca. 60%) with cord-impressions of two kinds: one thick, rough and
messy, the other more careful. The former are more common and generally show a long strip
design with a clear pattern or texture. The latter are few, generally marked near the mouth or lip
area, with random texture. Other decorations are fingernail, square stamp, engraved, carved
holes, etc. 27.7% are cord-impressed, forming combined decorative designs, with about 11.4%
plain or coloured.
Most pots are urns or bowls. Urns have deep, cylindrical and round midsections,
high-collar, double-ear and bowls with deep or shallow midsections. Next are supports, bases,
etc. Supports are hollow or solid, their shape a vertical cylinder or horizontal pillow shape. Most
tilt with a few flat-topped. Generally, the base is very flat and larger with a shallow midsection.
Pottery is quite primitive and rough. Small pots were made by direct sculpting; larger pots
by sticking clay pieces together and some by extrusion. But many methods were concurrently
As pottery is rough, the inner wall is usually thicker, especially at the base. A broken inner
wall cross-section generally shows the layers between pieces. The shape of many unbroken pots
is crooked, the surface uneven, the mouth wavy. Some inner walls were unpolished, so that
finger traces are still visible. With careful observation, one can also see traces of joined pieces
near the mouths of many utensils.
In analysis, we systematically weighed each excavated sherd in T1, graphing their
distribution (Fig. 5). This not only reflected people at a certain period, but different living
conditions and two successive different habitations. Early level 12 occupation had a low living
standard, while level 11 had less with correspondingly fewer sherds. Another is level 10b, while
10a is a representative later period, this time a higher living standard and population for the first
time, based on sherd quantity and weight difference. The next section provides evidence
regarding site culture.
Bashidang pottery is undistinguished, mostly simple modelling in many undifferentiable
shapes. Common traits are thickness, short mouth with cord-impressed or rugged lip, hanging
midsection and round base. A few are tripod without flat base. Varieties include small and large
deep midsection pots, tubular pot, egg-shaped midsection (drumlike midsection) pot, high-collar
pot, high-collar double-ear pot, deep and shallow midsection bowls, base, support, tripod, etc.
The small-mouth pot with deep protruding midsection has its largest diameter in the lower
part. Two types can be distinguished.
Type 1 has a larger body, its small-mouth rather long and barely open. Specimen T1 11: 3
has a round lip, a mouth with a set of cord-patterns, extant midsection and base. Mouth diameter
is 20.8 cm; height 11.6 cm (Fig. 6:1). Specimen T1 H6:1 has a square lip, small-mouth with
drooping midsection and round bottom. The whole pot, except mouth lip, is decorated with fine
interwoven cord-impressions. Diameters of mouth is 18.4 cm; midsection 22.6 cm & height 23.3
cm (Fig. 6:2).
Type 2 has a smaller body; its small mouth distinct and short with curling lips. Specimen
TlH6:5 has a round lip, the mouth and midsection decorated with interwoven cord-patterns and
preserved midsection and base. Mouth diameter is 16 cm, surviving height 6 cm. (Fig. 6:3).
Specimen T1 10 A:10 has a square lip with protruding outside mouth fringe. It seems there was a
round clay strip at the higher, widest part of the midsection, shaped with a slanted shoulder. The
mouth has interwoven coarse cord-impressions; the midsection cord-impressions with a
rain-washed look. The bottom survives. Mouth diameter is 17.6 cm and surviving height 8.4 cm
Large-mouth, deep midsection pots: Besides the wide mouth, the midsection is almost
straight and slightly wider than the mouth. They are divided into three types.
Type 1 has a mouth but no neck, above the midsection the slope is straight, the ratio of
mouth to body diameter larger. Specimen Tl 12:1 has round lips, the body cord-impressed
outwardly near the mouth. Mouth diameter is 24.8 cm and height 16.4 cm (Fig. 6:5).
Type 2 has a short open mouth; its diameter (and midsection) quite small. Specimen Tl
H6:4 has a square lip around its fringe with a circle of fingernail impressions. Mouth and
midsection have fine shallow cord-impressions. Mouth diameter is 24 cm; remaining height 9.8
cm. (Fig. 6:6).
Type 3 has a long open mouth and midsection of similar diameter. Specimen T4 10:l has a
large mouth. A thin strip of clay applied around the mouth is kneaded into a protruding lip, with
cord-impressions deliberately omitted. The mouth is decorated as with leather and the midsection
with interwoven cord-impressions. Mouth diameter is 24.8 cm, surviving height 12.8 cm (Fig.
Pot shape tends to tubular with straight-walled midsection. This group has three types.
Type 1 has a small drumlike midsection, with diameter larger than mouth. Specimen T1
11:l has round lips and very small mouth. A thin strip of clay around the mouth is kneaded into a
pointed lip. Firm horizontal cord-impressions are near the mouth, while the midsection has thin
shallow cord-impressions. Mouth diameter is 15.2 cm, midsection diameter is 16.1 cm and height
17.1 cm (Fig. 7:1).
Type 2: midsection wall is almost straight, with diameter larger than mouth and large round
nearly flat base. Specimen Tl H6:3 has round lips and barely open mouth. Near the mouth there
are horizontal cord-impressions, with midsection having interwoven cord-impressions. Diameters
of mouth and midsection are 14.2 and 15.2 cm; and height 16 cm (Fig. 7:2).
Type 3: midsection wall slants in, its largest diameter like the mouth, with small round
slightly pointed bottom. Specimen T1 10b:4 has a square lip on a nearly straight mouth and
untidy cord-impressions. Diameters of mouth and midsection are 15.5 & 15.6 cm; and height
16.3 cm (Fig. 7:3).
Round or egg-shaped midsection pots with diameters slightly larger than mouth are 3 types:
Type A body is larger with ovoid, deeper midsection. Specimen T1 10a: 2 has a square lip
on an open mouth, drumlike midsection and pointed round base. Under and around the mouth are
fingernail impressions, while the midsection has interwoven cord-impressions. Diameters of
mouth and midsection are 16 and 17.5 cm; and height 17.1 cm (Fig. 7:4).
Type B body is larger with a neck and shallow ball-shaped midsection. Specimen T1 10 A:4
has a square lip. Below and around its barely open mouth is a square impression. The mouth has
repetitive vertical and horizontal wide belts of impressions, interwoven with shallow delicate
cord-impressions. The connection between mouth and midsection has a circle of fingernail
impressions, while the midsection has slapped cord-impressions. Diameters of mouth and
midsection are 15.5 and 18.7; and height 13.5 cm (Fig. 7:5).
Type C is smaller, its midsection protruding and shallower with a neck. Specimen T1 4G7:1
has a pointed lip. Below and about its mouth is square cord-impressed circle, its neck with a wide
discontinuous pattern. Between repetitive patterns are some cord-impressions, the midsection
also cord-impressed. Diameters of mouth and midsection are 12 and 8-12; and height 6 cm (Fig.
Most high-collar pots contain a small amount of fine sand grains. The high-collar, deep
midsection pots are divided into two types.
Type A has a wide mouth and and indistinct line between collar and midsection. Specimen
T1 10a:5 has pointed round lips on a small mouth, the collar shorter with delicate interwoven
cord-impressions. The mouth is 25.4 cm in diameter, the surviving part 10 cm high (Fig. 8:1).
Specimen T1 0M4:1 has pointed round lips on a small mouth with short collar, collar and
midsection having interwoven thick cord-impressions. Mouth diameter is 24.8 cm and height
13.2 cm (Fig. 8:2).
Type B has its mouth barely open, the lip slightly rounded, protruding and turned out. It has
a high collar with a distinct division between collar and midsection.
Specimen T1 G3:1 has a wide fringe surrounded by a clay strip. Under the fringe are fine
engraved cord-impressions and below this the collar part has four circles of curling indentations
interwoven with five circles of fingernail impressions. The midsection is decorated with
interwoven cord-impressions. Mouth diameter is 24 cm and height of the surviving fragment 18
cm (Fig. 8:3).
Specimen T1 10a:9 has a narrow fringe on a collar with 7 groups of concave indentations
interwoven with fine parallel cord-impressions. The collar surface is rugged, the midsection
having interwoven coarse cord-marks. Mouth diameter is 22.4 cm and height of the remaining
fragment 10.8 cm (Fig. 8:4).
Specimen T1 10a:8 has a wide fringe, a collar with several groups of concave indentations
interwoven with fine cord-impressions. Collar surface is rugged, its connection with the
midsection a circle of fingernail impressions. The midsection has an interwoven pattern of coarse
cord-marking. Mouth diameter is 17.6 cm and height of the remaining fragment 13.2 cm (Fig.
Double-ear high-collar pots have small straight mouths with higher inward-sloping collars
and round drumlike midsections. Their round bases and double-ears are at the upper midsection.
These may be divided into two types:
Type A type is larger with a wide bridge-shaped ear. Specimen T4 H5:5 has a surviving
mouth part; the division between collar and midsection fairly distinct. There is a deep midsection
with plain surface. Diameter of existing mouth is 12 cm; height of remainder 12 cm (Fig. 9:1).
Type B body is smaller with flat or inner ear like a cow’s nose. Specimen T1 10a:6 has
square round lips, the division between collar and midsection distinct, the midsection flat and
shallow with only the base. The junction between collar and thin red glazed midsection is a long
strip of fingernail impressions. On the plain ground surface, several smooth strokes are visible.
Mouth diameter is 11 cm; height of the remaining fragment 11.6 cm (Fig. 9:2).
Plates. These are mostly made of mixed charcoal and sandy clay. The sand is not easily seen
because its grains are fine. The body is larger and the midsection shallower. Most have a large
round base, almost flat. These are divided into two types.
Type A body is larger with pointed round lips, deeper midsection and large round base.
Specimen T1 10 B:l has an elliptical midsection with needlepoint impressions. The base has
shaved-off tracks like smooth cord-impressions. Surface is plain but the inner wall has thin white
glaze. Mouth diameter is 43.2 cm; and height 13 cm (Fig. 10:1).
Type B body is smaller with square lip and exaggerated mouth, an almost straight slanted
wall, shallower midsection, indistinct transition between midsection and base and nearly flat
round base. Near the mouth of specimen T1 1G7:1 is a circle of fine cord-impressions on a plain
surface. The inner wall has a thin white glaze, much having fallen off with only the base
surviving. Mouth diameter is 36 cm and surviving height 9.6 cm (Fig.10:2).
4.1.1 Pottery bowls
Numerous bowls have diverse form classified into deep and shallow midsections.
Deep midsection bowls are larger like a basin. The mouth is wide with deep midsection and
protruding round base. Specimen T1 H6:8 has square lips and an exaggerated mouth with fine
edge. The bottom of the midsection gradually thickens and has several indentations. Interwoven
coarse cord-impressions are near the surviving base. Mouth diameter is 26 cm and surviving
height 10 cm (Fig.11:1). Specimen T1 0M4:2 has a square lip and exaggerated mouth with
nearby sparse fine shallow cord-impressions. The midsection is streaked as by rain with
horizontal and vertical cord-impressions. Mouth diameter is 25 cm and surviving height l3. 6 cm
Shallow midsection bowls are smaller with shallow midsection. Three sub-types may be
Type A has a shallow midsection, the large round base nearly level. Specimen T1 H6:2 has
round lips protruding from an exceptionally large mouth, while midsection is folded. Surface is
plain but near the base is engraved with several thick cord-impressions. Mouth diameter is 21.8
cm and height 7.2 cm (Fig.11:5).
Type B: has a deeper midsection and round base. Specimen T1 10b:2 has round lips and a
wavy pattern on the midsection. The lower midsection has interwoven thick cord-impressions.
Mouth diameter is 20 cm and height 10 cm. Specimen T1 10b:3 has round lips and ball-shaped
midsection; its inner part thick with cord-impressions near its base. Mouth diameter is 18.5 cm
and height 8.2 cm (Fig.11:3, 4).
Type C has an open mouth, slanting midsection and pointed round base. Specimen M4:4
has a thick inner part and round lips. Its midsection is decorated with a circle of fingernail
impressions. From midsection to surviving base are interwoven cord-impressions. Mouth
diameter is 24.7 cm, surviving height 8.4 cm. Specimen M4:3 has a square lip, rather small body
and cord-impressions near the base. Mouth diameter is 18 cm and height 7.2 cm. Specimen T1
10a:7 has a protruding round lip and rather shallow midsection. The whole body has a variety of
impressions; near the mouth, firm horizontal cord-impression; beneath the mouth a circle of deep
square impressions, and below that a smooth engraved triangular pattern, with each triangle
having fine interwoven cord-impressions. Below that again are deep square impressions. The
lower midsection has strings of thin cord-impressions. The base survives. Mouth diameter is 27
cm and height of the remaining part is 6.8 cm (Fig.11:6-8).
There are a rather large number of supports, their inside and outside both red or deep red.
Most clay contains fine sand and some has a small amount of ash. This group has two types.
Type A has a rather large horizontal body and is wide, flat and hollow with flat base.
Specimen T9 10b:l5 is hunched, its top like a loudspeaker. Midsection and base have patterns of
tree leaves interwoven with cord-impressions. The fringe is decorated with fingernail
impressions and there are lateral triangular holes. The height is 16.9 cm and width 18.8 cm
Type B has a rather small upright cylindrical body of mixed materials and flat top.
Specimen Tl4G7:2 has a slightly arched top with fingernail impressions and repetitive wavy
interwoven traces with fingernail impressions on the midsection. With the surviving base, height
is 6.8 cm and mouth diameter 5.6 cm (Fig.10:4).
There were a few containers with three feet (tripod). They are incomplete, but from
surviving pieces we think they had high collars, deep drum-shaped midsections, short feet and
plain surface. On specimen TlH6:6 the collar survives and midsection drumlike but slanted down
to its maximum diameter. Its feet survive. Midsection diameter is 19.2 cm and surviving height
10 cm. Specimen TlH6:7 has its feet, its broken surface with distinct layers of clay. From this we
infer it was made by sticking clay pieces together to connect the wall and shaped by kneading.
4.2. Stone vessels
Bashidang has many excavated stone tools, but workmanship is certainly rough. Their
shape and style can be classified into these categories: small tools made by rubbing; large ones
made by chipping, and tools made by turning and/or grinding. Among these three, flint and
chipped stone tools are more numerous, while among stone objects made by rubbing, there is an
excellent stone axe, with the remainder skilfully rubbed pipe-shaped ornaments. Most stone
items are made from round river pebbles. Pipe-shaped ornaments are all black oilstone and look
like charcoal ink sticks.
This article will not elaborate on stone tools, which will be described in the excavation
Comparing site cultural layers, we analysed T1 stone tools statistically (Fig. 12). It may be
seen there were two peaks of production and use of stone tools. Below layer 10b, primitive stone
tools occur, while in and above are later tools. Their quantity and kind reflect two distinct peaks
in numbers of earlier or later inhabitants, with the sherd distribution ( Fig. 5) generally agreeing.
Equally good results occur in two different methods, their analysis an important reference value
for the site culture.
Among the many stone tools, we introduce one tubular type: Specimen T4 10a:2 of black
oilstone has a solid flat barrel-shaped body. Its shape is somewhat tubular with clear grinding
traces. The top has broken where weakened by two holes made on opposite sides. There is a
square mark impressed on the right hand side. The base is a slanting triangle with an unmarked
back. Surviving length is 3.5 cm and diameter 1.7 cm (Fig.10:5).
4.3. Cultural Divisions
This paper divides sites into early and late periods according to: chronological order of
folded and compressed earth levels of each site; different types of stone tools; analysis of stone
tool development; different combinations of early and later periods; and changes made by the
weight and number of sherds (Figs. 1, 5 & 12). The early period is represented by 12, 11, H6,
G10, etc.; the late period by 10b, 10a, G3, H5, M4, G7, etc. (G7, G10, M4 will be described in
the next article).
Early period: All pottery contains charcoal, is loose and rough with a black inner coat. The
outside is brownish-red or greyish-brown. The decorative design is predominantly
cord-impressed, stamped or engraved. Cord-impressions are coarse, untidy and discontinuous.
Pot shape is not very neat, the mouth fringe rough and body slanted. Manufacture and surface is
rough, with fingermarks on the inner surface. This is simple pottery, mainly small pots and bowls
without high-collars, with or without double ears. The typical vessel has either a small mouth and
deep midsection, or a large mouth, deep midsection or a tubular shape. Type A pottery bowls
have three feet (tripod).
Late period: Most pottery contains charcoal; some is sandy with grains neither obvious nor
intentionally added. Surfaces are redder than Early pots, the inner face greyish-black.
Craftsmanship improves with some surfaces ground smooth in double-ear high-collar pots, etc.
Decoration is more delicate but a variety of large untidy cord-impressions continue. Impressions
of fingernails, chopmarks and curved lines appear and replace the monotonous Early patterns.
Some vessels like double-ear high-collar pots, plates, etc., are decorated inside and out with a
smooth red or white glaze. As production of older designs discontinued, new ones appear,
including high-collar pots, double-ear high-collar pots, round midsection pot, etc. Vessel types
comprise: a type II small mouth, deep midsection pot, a type III large-mouth, deep midsection
pot, a type III tubular pot, a type A round midsection pot, a type B high-collar pot, a type A base,
a type A support, etc.
5. CULTURE AND PERIOD OF THIS SITE
Most pottery is a mix of charcoal and red clay decorated with cord-impressions interwoven
with carving, fingernail impressions, chopping or wavy lines. The earliest pots were made by
kneading and joining clay pieces, with crude and irregular results. Many have round bases, but
not flat. The inner wall is thick, the neck short, the body often drooping. Varieties are deep
midsections, high-collar pots, vases, bowls, supports and tripod containers - all Pengtoushan
Early pottery is even more like Pengtoushan site pottery. Compare type A bowls and bases
and type A double-ear high-collar pot with similar Pengtoushan type D pottery bowls, type B
bases, type A double-ear high-collar pot (original report Fig. 15:16,15,19:1). Type 1 large mouth
deep midsection pot is almost identical with its Pengtoushan counterpart. Late pottery also
includes similar patterns.
Comparatively similar designs are type III cylindrical pots, type A round midsection pots,
type B bases and Pengtoushan cylindrical axes, type A deep type midsection pots and type A
bases (original report Fig. 15:2, 4; Fig. 19:6). As stone tool material also matches that at
Pengtoushan, the two sites share the same ancient culture, now known as Pengtoushan culture.
Although both sites have the same cultural background, there are differences corresponding
to different periods. Pottery containing charcoal at the Pengtoushan site is distinguished as
plentiful, coarse, loose and light. Colour is more grayish-brown while Bashidang charcoal pottery
is scarcer and more delicate and reddish. Pengtoushan pots also have small mouths, deep
midsections with protruding buttons and quite straight high-collars. At Bashidang, protrusions
are absent and high collars short and shrink inwards to an open mouth. Further, Pengtoushan has
axes, vessels, bowls and dishes unmatched at Bashidang. Certain Bashidang vessel shapes more
closely resemble those of the lower layer at Zaoshih (3). For example, high-collar types A and B
pots are closer to Zaoshih lower layer types II and III high crescent-shaped collar pots (original
report Fig. 8:9, 12). Double-ear type B pots with ears like a cow’s nose are like type A pots
(original report Fig. 9:9) in the Wenshan Bao site, and explain why part of this site has a similar
cultural background to that of Zaoshih. In addition, the C14 age for this site is rather late, about
7,540-7,100 BP, later than the 8,000 BP of Pengtoushan, but the later part of the culture is the
same as that at Zaoshih.
In summary, Bashidang appears to belong to the later stage of Pengtoushan culture, its
period between Pengtoushan and Zaoshih lower layer culture.
5.1. Surrounding walls and moat
One important Bashidang discovery was that walls and moats surround the dwellings, an
important contribution to their study, economic situation and early Neolithic settlement origin.
5.1.1 Level accumulation
To make the situation clear, levels of the wall, moat and related areas are in one diagram
(Fig. 13). The top part shows the south wall and moat levels and below is a detailed analysis of
the levels on the north side of the wall.
18.104.22.168. Ground layer accumulation of the site
Layers 1-10b and T1 are on the same level, but layers 11-13 are slightly different.
Layer 11 is brownish-red, hard, clean without foreign matter, broken and about 10-15 cm
Layer 12 is light gray to brown, loose, about 5-10 cm thick, with distinct pellets and a few
fine grains of iron/manganese. Sherds are more plentiful.
Layer 13 is buff sandy undeveloped soil about 12-15 cm thick and cleaner with a few
22.214.171.124. Levels in the moat
Immediately below layer 9 is G7 level (a-h layer), beneath which is early moat layer G10.
Under section analysis, G10 is broken by G7.
Layers a-g are silt about 1.5 m deep, its brownish-red colour characteristic of
iron-manganese content. There are gradations between layer a, red from iron-manganese nodules;
layer b, almost brown; layer c, dark reddish from small nodules; layer d, light red with small
nodules; layer e, mixed red with white and small nodules; layer f, light-coloured with few
nodules and looser, with some Pengtoushan type sherds; layer g, dark with large nodules but no
sherds; and layer h, a 15-20 cm cultural layer with loose, rather sticky light grey soil and more
G10 is broken by G7, its surviving width l-2 m and depth 20-25 cm. Soil is dark gray
alluvial, with properties like the G7:h layer. It has a few sherds of early Pengtoushan pottery.
5.1.2. Wall mound
The earliest construction of the perimeter wall is on layer 11. It was built in two stages: the
first being main wall layers 11-12 (see Fig.13), the second the subsidiary wall layers II-IV.
Main wall: layers 11 (grey-brown) and 12 (dark brown) were pressed firmly by pounding,
but with no marks. The wall has many Pengtoushan type sherds, iron/manganese nodules, fine
sand grains and the greatest thickness of 55 cm.
Subsidiary walls: later wall construction used material probably obtained from cleaning out
nearby sediment in three separate cleaning operations.
Layer II from the first cleaning is 25 cm of dark greenish-brown sediment with a few
Layer III is dark brown with many large sherds and red-burnt soil. It can be seen from the
north side of the wall that, after the second cleaning-out, detritus was piled on the banks of the
moat and formed parallel layer III piles on each side to a depth of about 10-15 cm.
Layer IV is dark brown, its soil texture soft compared to layers II and III. It has many sherds
and iron/manganese nodules in a thick layer up to 45 cm made from the third cleaning of the
These consist principally of the wall, moat (G10, G7) and grave inside the moat (described
next). Grave M4, oriented WSW & NE, is below layer G7:g; breaking layer h and the east side of
surrounding wall IV. Its soil has an upper 10 cm of heavy tan-coloured sand and a lower 15 cm
of dark gray with much charcoal on a fired layer. The grave is about 110x30 cm and is secondary.
A deep pot midsection in its earth fill had two sherds of type C shallow midsection bowls
(Fig.1:2, 6, 7). At bottom was one type A high-collar pot (Fig. 8:2), all completely recovered as
original pottery. No skeleton was found.
According to the folding and pressing relationship between the open layer and the division
between Early and Late periods of the types of excavated artifacts, one may assume M4
generation belongs to the site’s later period (Fig.1).
The surrounding moat includes G10 and G7, two different early and late moat
G10 is open under layer 11 and breaks layers 12 and 13. It was broken by G7 and pressed
by attached wall (II - IV), its actual width and depth unclear. Accumulated soil inside the moat is
dark grey and has a small amount of sherds, their pot shape unclear. G10 is the same as G7, its
period earlier than G7 and before the building of the surrounding wall.
The analysis of G7 section indicates the moat was started in layer 11 and then overlaid by
layer 9. Therefore, its relative period should be later than layer 11 but earlier than layer 9.
Analysis of the moat, confirmed by coring, shows G7 is completely closed. Its irregular
shape resembles a hutch or knife handle (Fig. 2). Its N-S length is about 210-230 m, width about
4 m at its top and 1.5 m at its bottom, with a depth of 1.5-2 m.
Artifacts at G7 start at layer F with Pengtoushan type sherds. Layer H has most sherds, now
reassembled as type C round-bellied pot and type B base or support. (Fig. 7:6; 10:2, 4).
From G7 layers and artifact characteristics the moat is assigned to the later period (Fig. 1).
Fig 13 shows the surrounding dyke was first built on layer 11, then covered by layer 10a
and brown soil of layer 9; i.e., between layers 11 and 10. The east side of the perimeter dyke is
well-defined, but the other three sides need further investigation.
According to east dyke excavation, its width was about 6 m at base and height 0.5-l m. The
west dyke slopes about 20 degrees and the east about 30. The whole dyke is mixed brown and
black ash and soil, with no sign of pounding, but man-made layers are apparent. The soil inside
the dyke contains more Pengtoushan culture sherds.
No channels or gaps in the surrounding moat and wall have been found.
5.4 Nature and Period
By excavation and search, we obtained the original site appearance, with related material
from the surrounding moat and wall, which is sufficient to prove that people built the moat and
wall for a distinct purpose – protection and drainage.
Building a surrounding moat and surrounding wall remote from the original river creates a
closed river system to the north. This moat function is distinctly like old cities; i.e., ancient
Lixian city on the Liyang plain was large, with planned layout and wall structure. Construction
technology was mature and the wall protected the city. As the crow flies it is quite near
Bashidang. Each site is earlier or later than the other, but any related origins must await future
work for confirmation.
Regarding the time of the surrounding moat and wall (referring to G7), layer relationship
and style of excavated artifacts, it is reasonable to assume both sites belong to the Late period.
Regarding the G10 period, layers 12 and 13 have moats on both sides, but layer 11 has only
the western moat. It is plausible that moats impeded access, restricting activity to the west side
with no trace of activity to the east. So G10 began on layer 12, the plane section coinciding.
Evidently, the G10 date is later than layer 12 but earlier than G7 and the surrounding wall.
6. RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SURROUNDING WALL AND MOAT
6.1. Moat period
Moat digging began in two separate periods, G10 and G7. G10 began on layer 12 and
penetrated layer 13, so its period must be later than layer 12 which was broken by G7. As it was
compressed by the surrounding wall and eventually abandoned, it probably belongs to the early
settlement. As G7 moat began on layer 11, penetrating level 12 and most of G10, G7 is later than
layer 11, making G10 belong to the later settlement.
Digging of G7 suggests there were three different occasions when the moat was cleaned of
sediment to build the east slope of the wall. This occurs in three distinguishable sediment layers
that widened, strengthened and followed the slope of the wall.
Thus, early moat G10 was later than layer 12, its use continuing into layer 11, or until G7
began. G7 moat was later than layer 11, its use and sedimentation continuing into layer 10.
6.2. Relationship between moat and wall
From layer analysis it appears early moat G10 is earlier than layer 11. Since the wall is built
on top of layer 11 it must be later, with no doubt that G10 is earlier than the wall.
As G7 was dug after layer 11 with the wall on that layer, it is difficult to say which is
earlier. Given G10 was already there, one must consider the motivation of the people who
decided to dig G7. Why did they need to renovate and dig again? Perhaps the original moat
became useless by silt clogging, or new construction was needed to build a wall on the inner
bank of the moat in order to improve both protection and drainage. As building a wall demands
massive work output, people removed sediment from the original moat and used it immediately
for building, achieving twice as much for a given amount of effort. If we accept this hypothesis,
G7 preceded the wall. First G7 was dug and the wall appeared later. In an extreme case, one can
say the two were simultaneous.
Thus, the perimeter wall was built after G7 was dug. Secondary attached walls (II - IV)
were built after three separate sediment cleanings. Evidently, the attached walls inside the moat
were later than G7. However, accumulation inside the moat was later than the wall.
The relationship between them may be graphically represented as:
12--11--10b--10a--9 early. G10--(G7 main wall--attached wall) (G7:A-h. is later.
6.3. Relation between wall and settlement cultural layers
The wall was built over layer 11 and covered by layer 10a. As its age resembled that of
layer 10b, perhaps continuing into layer 10a, the wall should represent later remains of layers 10b
6.4. Moat digging throws light on the development of human activity in the central region
As seen in the north section of Fig. 13, there were cultural distributions in layers 12 and 13
beside the moat when it was first dug. Thus, early human activities extended up to the east side
of the moat. After it was dug, human activities moved to the west side as seen in layer 11
The centre of the inhabited area was possibly near the east or west side.
It could be inferred that habitation moved abruptly west when the moat was dug, showing the
moat caused the displacement.
Since the moat was dug and the west side became central, the central area is more distinct.
(Editor’s note: 4 is missing in the original)
Within the surrounding moat and wall, traces of dwellings might be expected to be more obvious
among the places of pottery manufacture and grave areas, but Bashidang is unusual.
As areas of habitation, pottery production and graves were not all found due to incipient
analysis and limited excavation, two separate excavations result in different interpretations of the
cultural sequence. The site awaits more continuing study.
7.1. Cultural characteristics
Bashidang was C14 dated about 7,540-7,100 years old and belongs to late Pengtoushan
culture. Pottery has mainly a charcoal inner lining of reddish brown, but some sherds are gray,
dark brown or have a crystalline surface. Their shape is irregular with rough openings and
uneven lines, with the outer surface peeling off (including any polished layers). Some sherds are
streaked over part or all of the body, but a few are plain. Some are finished, inside or out, with a
thin red or white glaze. Pottery was generally cord-impressed using thick and thin cord.
Impressions were interwoven with wavy lines mixed with rain-marks of random width.
Impressions of fingernail, square tool stamp and scratches are on some pots. Their shape is quite
monotonous, mainly round bases with a few tripods, but there is a variety of deep midsection and
high-collar pots, plates, pottery bowls, supports, tripods, etc.
Bashidang pottery resembles that of Pengtoushan, especially a thick, applied charcoal inner
slip. Pottery tends to be red thick cord-impressed, monotonous in style, crooked, round-based and
short-mouthed with sagging midsections, etc. It is primitive and undoubtedly matches other
7.2. Relative importance of the Bashidang site
l. Before excavating Bashidang, investigation showed there were no fewer than ten similar
sites in Hunan, but after excavation it remains second to Pengtoushan. As the division between it
and Pengtoushan is unclear due to insufficient material, further excavation will provide important
material for clarification. It not only is later than Pengtoushan C14 age, but also has certain later
cultural traits. But compared with Pengtoushan, certain earlier or later relations also occur.
2. Discovery of surrounding moat and wall. In ancient Pengtoushan culture, people dug a
moat with adjoining wall of pounded soil. It’s large scale show the economy and population were
adequate for settlement growth. Bashidang excavation confirms that on the middle Yangtze River
a settlement with both moat and wall had appeared by 7,500 years ago, if only embryonically.
Meanwhile, precious data has been found for research on the origin of Neolithic city sites in this
Excavators were Anping Pei, Bigui Weng, Shengdong Wo, Jiasheng Yin, Jianping Fong,
Mohui Pan and others. Report writers were Anping Pei and Jiasheng Yin.
(1) Pengtoushan Neolithic site excavations in Lixian, Hunan. Hunan Institute of Archaeology,
Bulletin on Cultural Features. 1990, 8th issue.
(2) Anping Pei. Initial impressions of Pengtoushan culture and pottery. Central Archaeology
Academic Society, 8th Annual Meeting Paper.
(3) Early Neolithic tool survivals in Shimen, Zaoshih county, Hunan. Yoyang city cultural feature
work team, Hunan Provincial Museum Archaeology, 1986, 1st issue.
(4) Preliminary excavation report on Neolithic survivals at Qinliang Lake Fengshanbiao. Yoyang
city cultural feature work team. Hunan Archaeology, 6th issue.
(5) Preliminary Investigation and Excavation of Qinliang site, Li County. Hunan Institute of
Archaeology. Bulletin on Cultural Features, 1993, 12th issue, Chief Editor Cheung Chan Shek.
1993, 12th issue, Chief Editor Cheung Chan Shek.