Hemudu culture

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Black pottery of the Hemudu culture

The Hemudu culture (河姆渡文化) (5000 BC to 4500 BC[1]) was a Neolithic culture that flourished just south of the Hangzhou Bay in Jiangnan in modern Yuyao, Zhejiang, China. The site at Hemudu, 22 km north-west of Ningbo, was discovered in 1973. Hemudu sites were also discovered on the islands of Zhoushan. Scholars view the Hemudu Culture as a source of the proto-Austronesian cultures.[2]

Material culture[edit]

The Hemudu culture co-existed with the Majiabang culture as two separate and distinct cultures, with cultural transmissions between the two. Two major floods caused the nearby Yaojiang River to change its course and inundated the soil with salt, forcing the people of Hemudu to abandon its settlements. The Hemudu people lived in long, stilt houses.

The Hemudu culture was one of the earliest cultures to cultivate rice. Recent excavations at the Hemudu period site of Tianluoshan has demonstrated rice was undergoing evolutionary changes recognized as domestication.[3] Most of the artifacts discovered at Hemudu consist of animal bones, exemplified by hoes made of shoulder bones used for cultivating rice.

The culture also produced lacquer wood. The remains of various plants, including water caltrop, Nelumbo nucifera, acorns, melon, wild kiwifruit, blackberries, peach, the foxnut or Gorgon euryale and bottle gourd, were found at Hemudu and Tianluoshan.[4] The Hemudu people likely domesticated pigs, and dogs but practiced extensive hunting of deer and some wild water buffalo. Fishing was also carried out on a large scale, with a particular focus on crucian carp.[5] The practices of fishing and hunting are evidenced by the remains of bone harpoons and bows and arrowheads. Music instruments, such as bone whistles and wooden drums, were also found at Hemudu.

The culture produced a thick, porous pottery. The distinct pottery was typically black and made with charcoal powder. Plant and geometric designs were commonly painted onto the pottery; the pottery was sometimes also cord-marked. The culture also produced carved jade ornaments, carved ivory artifacts and small, clay figurines.


Fossilized amoeboids and pollen suggests Hemudu culture emerged and developed in the middle of the Holocene Climatic Optimum. A study of a sea-level highstand in the Ningshao Plain from 7000 – 5000 BP shows that there may have been stabilized lower sea levels at this time followed by, from 5000 to 3900 BP, frequent flooding.

Craniofacial analysis[edit]

Based on morphological observation and cranial measurements, skulls of Hemudu have features of both Mongoloid and Australoid. Some Mongoloid characters of them are more obvious than late paleolithic human skull of Liujiang, which was still thought to be predominately Mongoloid. Examples of neolithic human skulls from southern China have characteristics of both East Asian and Oceanian.[6][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Yan Wenming (2005) "The Beginning of Farming", pp.27–42 of The Formation of Chinese Civilization: An Archaeological Perspective, Kwang-Chih Chang, Pingfang Xu, Sarah Allan, Liancheng Lu (eds.), Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0-300-09382-7. pp.36
  2. ^ "The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum". 
  3. ^ Fuller, Dorian Q, Ling Qin, Yunfei Zheng, Zhijun Zhao, Xugao Chen, Leo Aoi Hosoya, and Guo-ping Sun (2009) "The Domestication Process and Domestication Rate in Rice: Spikelet bases from the Lower Yangtze". Science 323: 1607–1610 doi:10.1126/science.1166605
  4. ^ Fuller, D. Q. and Ling Qin (2010) "Declining oaks, increasing artistry, and cultivating rice: the environmental and social context of the emergence of farming in the Lower Yangtze Region". Environmental Archaeology 15 (2): 139–159 doi:10.1179/146141010X12640787648531
  5. ^ Nakajima T, Nakajima M, Mizuno T, Sun G-P, He S-P and Yamazaki T (2010) "On the pharyngeal tooth remains of crucian and common carp from the Neolithic Tianluoshan site, Zhejiang Province, China, with remarks on the relationship between freshwater fishing and rice cultivation in the Neolithic Age". International Journal of Osteoarchaeology doi:10.1002/oa.1206.
  6. ^ Han, Kangxin. "Early Neolithic Human Skulls From Hemudu, Yuyao, Zhejiang". www.cnki.com.cn. Instittute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Retrieved 25 August 2014. 


  • Allan, Sarah (ed), The Formation of Chinese Civilization: An Archaeological Perspective, ISBN 0-300-09382-9
  • Chang, Kwang-chih. The Archaeology of Ancient China, ISBN 0-300-03784-8
  • Fuller,D.Q & Harvey,E., Qin,L. (2007). Presumed domestication? Evidence for wild rice cultivation and domestication in the fifth millennium BC of the Lower Yangzte region.Antiquity 81(312), 316-331
  • Fuller, D. Q. and Ling Qin (2010) Declining oaks, increasing artistry, and cultivating rice: the environmental and social context of the emergence of farming in the Lower Yangtze Region. Environmental Archaeology 15 (2): 139-159
  • Zhu C, Zheng CG, Ma CM, Yang XX, Gao XZ, Wang HM, Shao JH. On the Holocene sea-level highstand along the Yangtze Delta and Ningshao Plain, east China. CHINESE SCIENCE BULLETIN 48 (24): 2672-2683 DEC 2003

Coordinates: 29°57′51″N 121°20′40″E / 29.9642°N 121.3444°E / 29.9642; 121.3444