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French-Chinese Archaeological Project in Northeast China (Mafnec) (2017-2020)

by Lemardelé Élise - published on

Humans and environment in the Dongliao River Valley (Northeast China)

French-Chinese Archaeological Project in Northeast China (Mafnec) (2017-2020)

International program in collaboration with the Research Center for Chinese Frontier Archaeology at Jilin University and the Jilin Province Archaeology Research Institute.

Principal investigators: Pauline Sebillaud, CNRS, Assistant Researcher, CRCAO UMR 8155, JING Zhongwei, Professor, Research Center for Chinese Frontier Archaeology at Jilin University.

The French-Chinese Archaeological Project in Northeast China (MAFNEC) includes researchers, young archaeologists and Ph.D. students from various CNRS institutes (CRCAO, Archéorient, ArScan, MNHN) and the French Research Institute for Preventive Archaeology (INRAP). This project’s goal is an archaeological study of the Changshan Site, and it will contribute the archaeological study of marginal environments.
Jilin Province is located at the center of Northeast Asia, and is one of the earliest places in the world where the appearance pottery and other complex processes of the Neolithic took place. There is evidence that Jilin experienced a rather late appearance of agriculture and domestication, and instead had seasonal settlements and fishing and hunting-based subsistence modes. The precise timing of technical developments and Neolithic adaptations—for instance, the relatively late beginning of agriculture and domestication in Northeast China—are questions that attract the focus of many archaeologists in the world today. The sudden development of sedentary settlement during the Middle Ages (Liao-Jin period) also raises a number of question, which have not been thoroughly addressed so far. The relations between humans and their environment remain to be studied in this region.
The MAFNEC project will focus on the middle course of the Dongliao River, east of the confluence between the Dongliao and the Xiliao River. This is an environmental and cultural crossroads between three regions (the Dahei Mountains to the east, the Horqin Desert to the west and the Changchun Plain to the north), three provinces (Jilin, Inner Mongolia, and Liaoning), and numerous archaeological cultures. This area is covered by black sandy soils (phaenozems), whose erosion in the present day is accelerated by deforestation and intense agriculture.
Our project has four main goals: understanding the social dynamics of the transition from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age; reconstructing the landscape history of the region; finding evidence for trade in goods and raw materials; and tracing the development of different economic and settlement modes through time. The southeast of Jilin Province is a particularly rich cultural crossroads, which remains relatively unexplored in Chinese archaeology. Further research there should be carried out by a multidisciplinary and international team. The main research focuses will be on the Neolithization processes and the dynamics of the transition between the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods. The formation of the local topography is a question which is rarely raised in Chinese archaeology, and will be one of the axes of our research on this site and the surrounding areas: the Dongliao River has a number of paleo-meanders, which strongly influenced the shape of the landscape and the availability of resources during different periods. The provenance of raw materials as well as the nature of short and long-distance exchanges will also be a focus of our work. The evolution of settlement modes (nomadism, seasonality, sedentism) and economic modes will be at the center of this multidisciplinary research.
To foster international collaboration and the exchange of ideas, the Sino-French team will be built as symmetrically as possible: each French specialist will work in partnership with a Chinese counterpart, to form a close research partnership, in addition to the larger team meetings. These duos of researchers will collaboratively design research protocols related to their field of research that are the best suited to the site, train students and the other team members, and produce publications. In addition to these connections created in the field, visits to different institutions of the project in France and in China will also aim to create long-term relationships between specialists and support future work.

Composition of the French team:

CNRS, CRCAO (East Asian Civilizations Research Centre, UMR 8155):
Pauline Sebillaud, Assistant Researcher

École Pratique des Hautes Études, CRCAO :
Alain Thote, Professor

CNRS, ArScan (Archéologie et sciences de l’Antiquité, UMR 7041) :
Wen Zhen, Ph.D. Candidate
Joël Suire, Research Associate

Inrap (National Institute for Research in Preventive Archaeology) :
Xavier Peixoto, Principal Investigator and Researcher
Stéphane Frère, Principal Investigator and Researcher

CNRS, National Museum of Natural History (Archaeozoology and archaeobotany, UMR 7209) :
Margareta Tengberg, Professor

CNRS, Archéorient (Environments and societies in the Ancient Orient, UMR 5133) :
Michel Rasse, Professor

Research Laboratory for Archaeology and History of Art, Oxford University:
Thibaut Devièse, Post-doctoral Researcher

Anthropology Department, North Carolina University:
Elizabeth Berger, Ph.D. Candidate
Pauline Duval, Ph.D. Candidate

Composition of the Chinese team:

Research Center for Chinese Frontier Archaeology, Jilin University:

Wang Lixin, Professor
Jing Zhongwei, Professor
Tang Zhuowei, Professor
Lin Sen, Professor
Li Penghui, Ph.D. student
Chen Xiaofei, Ph.D. student

Jilin Province Archaeological Research Institute:
Liu Xiaoxi, Principal Investigator and Researcher