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Northeast China Archaeology: Settlement, Know-Hows and Funerary Practices
This research program devoted to the archaeology of Northeast China aims to advance knowledge of the ways of life of ancient populations over the longue durée, between the Neolithic and the Republican periods, through the study of material data from archaeological excavations.
The Northeast region of China corresponds to the Manchurian plain, delimited to the north by the Xiao Xing’an ling and the Amur River, to the west by the Da Xing’an ling and the Mongolian plateau and to the southeast by the Changbai shan opening onto the Korean peninsula. This peripheral region of China, nowadays located between Mongolia, Russia and North Korea, is composed of areas with diverse topography and resources, which have in common to have always endured a cold continental climate. In the center of North-East Asia, these territories were the place where many original subsistence strategies were developed by the ancient populations.
By constantly placing the data in the context of the research questions specific to Northeast Asia, this project focuses on the environments of the sub-regions of Northeast China as well as on the perspectives of the global problems regarding Northeast Asia.
The present program is organized along three axes: settlement, know-hows, and funerary practices.
The study of settlement is organized on different scales, and sheds light on the evolution of the spatial distribution of archaeological sites (villages, towns, military stations, etc.), of certain types of particular remains (workshops, mines, etc.) and of the networks that link them over vast spaces. On a finer scale, the study focuses on the elements that founded and welded together communities on the scale of villages, then, on the scale of buildings, on the evolution of architectural techniques. All the remains, anthropic (objects) and natural – more or less modified by human actions – (plants, fauna, etc.), analyzed in the context of their discovery, make it possible to date and interpret these structures, but also to shed light on the economic and resource exploitation changes at play in the subsistence strategies used by the populations of each period in the different regions of Northeast China.
The second component of this program focuses on the study of know-hows and production techniques. This technological approach is based on the concept of the chaîne opératoire. All the stages are studied: from the extraction of the raw materials, to their transport and transformation, up to the finishing of the objects. Quantitative and qualitative studies as well as archaeometric analyses (petrography) are used to produce new knowledge on the organization of work, the exchange of materials and objects, as well as the transmission of techniques and ideas that affected human groups of different periods.
The last component of this project concerns the exploitation of data related to the tombs. The examination of human remains produces a great deal of information on the life of individuals: diet, pathologies, access to medical care, body modifications, etc., forming individual osteological biographies. Thanks to the methods of archaeothanatology, the analysis of the tombs as a whole – from the placement of the deceased’s limbs to the funerary offerings and the structure of the burial – makes it possible to reconstruct the gestures of preparation of the body and the burial site, the ceremonies and to have access to a part of the beliefs.
Method and organization
In order to do this, an immense amount of bibliographical data is available and is mobilized. In addition, new dataset from recent archaeological excavations in China are studied.
The planning and the progress of this program will be organized during meetings and workshops organized regularly, every 3 or 4 months, between the participants, with invited researchers, according to specific questions.
Dataset from recently excavated sites (collections of human bones, ceramics and fauna) will be examined in China, mainly in Jilin and Heilongjiang.
Depending on field access conditions, a settlement study on the banks of the Amur River in Heilongjiang and a study of stone-pile tombs on the banks of the Yalu River are planned for 2024-2028.
The participants of this project write together different scientific articles in scientific journals in French, English and Chinese languages.
Eventually, the publication of a synthesis work on all these researches is planned, in English language. Entitled The Archaeology of Northeast China, this work will be composed of two volumes, the first one will deal with the pre- and proto-historic periods, and the second one with the historical periods.
The dissemination of the results of this program to a wider public will be done through the print and radio media, on social networks and through the website of the Archaeological Notebook of Northeast Asia (https://mafnec.hypotheses.org/).
archaeology settlement techniques
Pauline Sebillaud 史宝琳 (CNRS)
Pauline Duval (École Pratique des Hautes Études)
(archaeozoologist, researcher, French National Insitute for Preventive Archaeological Research - INRAP, National Museum of Natural History, AASPE « Archaeozoology and Archaeobotany – Societies, Practices and Environments », UMR 7209)
Elizabeth Berger (associate professor, palaeopathologist, University of California - Riverside)
Yang Lin (associate professor, archaeologist, Heilongjiang Universit)
Liu Xiaoxi (associate professor, archaeologist, Heilongjiang University)
Gwendal Gueguen (researcher, funerary archaeologist, Loire-Atlantique Heritage Centre Archaeology Departement (GPLA), CReAAH « Reseach Centre on Archaeology, Archaeosciences, History », UMR 6566)