Chinese Sacrifice

22 Aug 2020

Gary sent in a link to www.nationalgeographic.com/history/2020/08/mysterious-carvings-evidence-... ... mysterious carvings and evidence of human sacrifice uncovered at an ancient chinese city. Apart from the click bait headline this is an interesting story. Crumbling walls have been known for some time along the northern loop of the Yellow River. It is loess country (where the river gets its name). Occasional pieces of jade turned up which attracted enterprising night hawks to have a search around. Eventually, it came to the notice of the authorities. Pieces of unusual  jade turning up on the black market are  bound to capture somebody's attention. Chinese archaeologists turned up and a major dig was undertaken, taking place over several years. They discovered a huge fortress city. The crumbling walls were from buildings in the city as well as a 6 mile length of outer wall. It seems the site was built to prevent attack from barbarians at what was then the frontier of China. Reliefs sculpted from stone show serpents (or dragons), what are described as monsters, and half human beasts that have a resemblance to later Bronze Age iconography in China proper. Carbon dating of the site, christened Shimao, p[rovides a date or around 2300BC. Oh dear, that date again. This is the Chinese Neolithic (although metal objects were found which appear to be trade goods from the steppe zone). It is dated 2300-1800BC and apparently, went out of use during a major drought episode. This appears to mirror similar drought and upheaval in the Near East, Iran and the Indus Valley during the same period. Not surprising as it involves the intensity of the monsoon.

Shimao is situated north of the so called Chinese cradle oof civilisation. At some 1000 acres it is the biggest Neolithic settlement in China found to date. The art and technology appear to have similarities with the northern steppe zone. Another 70 Neolithic settlements are also known to date, belonging to the so called Longshan Neolithic period (2300-1800BC), ten of them appear to be satellites of Shimao

The discovery of 80 human skulls in pits, without their skeletons, seems to suggest a kind of ritual beheading. This is of course guesswork and they may have been prisoners of war - or rebels (treated as traitors). The human sacrifice angle is unproven and it is worth noting that only a small proportion of Shimao has been excavated. The primary discovery was a pyramid.