Jan 27, 2009

World - Earliest man-made cave houses in China

Xi’an: Archaeologists in China have unearthed the earliest man-made cave houses and privately-owned pottery workshops which date back 5,500 years.

After four years of excavation, a row of 17 cave houses were found on a cliff along the Jinghe river in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, Wang Weilin, deputy director of the Shaanxi Archaeology Institute and chief archaeologist of the excavation, told Xinhua.

They were built between 3,500 and 3,000 BC.

Mr. Wang said the row of houses were within a 16,000-sq.m. site which was being excavated.

The cave houses belonged to a late neolithic culture named Yangshao that originated in the middle reaches of the Yellow river and was considered a main origin of Chinese civilisation. Yangshao was best known for red pottery ware with painted patterns.

Each cave house was about 10 square metres and divided into two rooms. One room was dug into the cliff while the other, possibly made of wood and mud, was built on the outside of the cave, said Mr. Wang.

Archaeologists also found pottery kilns and caves to store pottery beside the houses as well as pottery wares, fragments and tools.

“Most of the cave houses had a pottery kiln beside it. We believe these cave houses were homes to families of pottery makers,” said Mr. Wang.

In previous excavations of neolithic settlements in China, one pottery kiln was usually found to have been used by all families, he said. “Here we found the earliest evidence that a certain group of people were specialised in making pottery, a sign of division of labour.” Caves to store pottery also show private ownership of property had emerged, added Mr. Wang.

North of the cave houses, archaeologists also discovered sections of a moat about six to nine metres wide.

Early Yangshao settlements have mainly been found in Shaanxi, but during the middle stage people spread to nearly half of what’s considered today’s China. — Xinhua

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