|Shangshan and the Origins of Rice Culture|
“The Shangshan culture, named after the [archaeological excavation site of] Shangshan, Pujiang, is the cradle of the world’s rice culture. The evidence of the origins and development of rice in the Shangshan culture over thousands of years is an important revision of the understanding of the origin of world agriculture,” was the conclusion of the academic symposium celebrating the 20th anniversary of the discovery of the Shangshan Site, which closed on November 14.
More than 40 scholars from universities and research institutions, including Peking University, the Institute of Archaeology at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and the Institute of Geology and Geophysics at Chinese Academy of Sciences, attended the academic event. Archaeologist Yan Wenming and archaeologists from the US, the UK, and Canada gave online presentations.
The symposium focused on the discoveries related to the 19 sites around the Pujiang Shangshan Site that have been made in the past 20 years of excavations and research. The sites are located in the upper reaches of the Qiantang River and the basin of the Lingjiang River.
The newly discovered Qiaotou Ruins in Yiwu and Xiatang Ruins in Xianju have disclosed characteristics of the settlements such as ring moats and central platforms, reflecting the initial development of the agricultural social structure. This type of settlement appeared in the early days of Shangshan culture. The Shangshan Site on the Pujiang River was called “the first village in ancient China” by Yan Wenming, since it marked the beginning of a historical stage and was evidence that the Shangshan culture was the source of Chinese farming culture.
On this basis, research on the origin of rice cultivation is the core investigation into Shangshan culture, since in the Shangshan Site a relatively complete chain of evidence—including rice harvesting, processing, and eating—has been discovered. These are the earliest relics of rice cultivation discovered in the world so far.
New research shows that in the area of Shangshan culture, wild rice has been growing since about 30,000 years ago, which adds a key link in the research on the origins of rice cultivation. About 10,000 years ago, the people of Shangshan were able to use wild rice that grew naturally around the site during their hunting and gathering activities.
The evidence of the origins and development of rice for thousands of years in the Shangshan culture is an important revision of the understanding of the origins of world agriculture. Studies have shown that the level of domestication of rice in the middle and late stages of Shangshan culture was quite high. In addition, the abundance of physical data has demonstrated the crucial role played by Shangshan culture in the origins of rice farming, which marked an epochal turning point—the beginning of agricultural society and culture.
Furthermore, as an early Neolithic site, the development of pottery is also an important feature of Shangshan culture. The colored pottery pieces unearthed at the Shangshan sites are among the earliest colored pottery in the world discovered so far, and represent an important source of colored pottery culture in the Chinese culture.
The newly established platforms Shangshan Culture Research Center, Shangshan Culture Site Alliance, and China Millenary Site Alliance will provide a comprehensive agenda for research and publicity activities related to Shangshan culture. Zhao Hui, vice chairman of the Society for Chinese Archaeology and professor at the School of Archaeology and Museology at Peking University, pointed out that in the next stage, the focus of Shangshan culture archaeology should be on pastural settlement archaeology. (By Zhou Xuan, translated by Marco Lovisetto, edited by Kendra Fiddler)