NEOLITHIC IN CHINA
The end of Prehistory in China is effective around 4000 BP. Before that new era, Chinese Neolithic has important and constant components : production of a diversified ceramic, breeding of dog, hen, pig, presence of an extensive agriculture with millet and rice. Coastal populations will move to the south ; thus Neolithic previously seen as located in the central valley of Huanghe will be diversified joining the coastal plains that are the inferior basins of the main rivers in North-East China.
AGRICULTURE appeared around the valleys of Yellow River (Huanghe) and Blue River (Changjiang) with the cultures of millet (setaria italica and panicum miliaceum) and rice (oryza japonica and oryza indica), the former expanded from the valley of Huanghe, the latter in the Lower course of Changjiang.
The evolution of rice culture is attested from 12000 to 3000 BP with the use of bone ploughshare, found for instance in the Hemudu area, around 6000.
The evidence of coherent cultural systems is progressively pointed out : Huanghe (Yellow River), Changjiang (Blue River), Liao river ; with important new excavations, new cultural areas appear with otherpeculiar specificities, for instance in Anhui, Guizhou provinces.
The presence of vast cemeteries (cultures of Dawenkou, Longshan, Yangshao, and interconnected cultures on sites as Liuwan) is frequent. Graves containing one or more deceased are differenciated, consisting of a regular pit without funerary pieces or of regular pit with funerary pieces : inside is all the diversity of the artefacts, from none to several or more than one hundred pieces.
( on the right : Hongshan culture, Niuheliang site, locality 2 tumulus 1, grave 21).
The huge amounts of ceramic vessels found and collected from imperial epochs up to recent excavations have gradually given birth to a complex typology. Their use is rather specialized : food, liquids, storage, burial ; the textures are mainly red, white, black, grey clay, with or without sand. Many have painted polychrome or carved patterns Thick pieces are found in ancient cultures as Cishan (8000-7500 BP) or Dadiwan (7200-6800 BP) and elaborated ones for cultures as Longshan (Shandong 4400-4000 BP) or Dawenkou (6300-4400 BP).
Various analysis criteria are pertinent as external shapes, leading to a typology including more than fifty general with numerous local modifications from North to South sites or patterns found on the vessels, especially on the bowls (bo or wan), jars (guan, fu, gang), bottles (ping), dish (pen, pan),…
Numerous Neolithic sites of the different Chinese provinces have revealed a diversified typology, with emblematic shapes on the various determined cultures. The various categories, more than 100, consist in human, zoomorphic, geometric patterns privileging local modifications. Southern and northern cultures have different symbolic existences : geometrical and abstract shapes in Changjiang river (zong, bi and numerous connected shapes) in Liao River and connected regions, dragon shapes, human statues in Lingjiatan culture,…
Intensive researches are undertaken in China, on one hand by the Central Academy of Sciences and in the provincial academies depending from this central institution, and on the other hand by the important scientific cooperation decided in 1996 by the Government i.e. the Ministry of Culture and the Department of of National Relics to authorize the institutes of national universities to undertake research and collaborate with local, county, provincial patrimonial institutions in charge of sites and relics.
Cooperation with China is more and more open, but in the mean time, Chinese colleagues are perfectly aware of the concrete advantages appeared with the internationalization and the important financial helps needed for such projects.