Tall an­ces­tors found in Shan­dong tombs

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA -

JI­NAN — Ar­chae­ol­o­gists have found ev­i­dence of un­usu­ally tall and strong peo­ple who lived in East China 5,000 years ago.

Mea­sure­ments of bones from graves in Shan­dong prov­ince show the height of at least one man to have reached 1.9 me­ters.

“This is just based on the bone struc­ture. If he was a liv­ing per­son, his height would cer­tainly ex­ceed 1.9 me­ters,” said Fang Hui, head of Shan­dong Uni­ver­sity’s School of His­tory and Cul­ture.

Since last year, ar­chae­ol­o­gists have been ex­ca­vat­ing the ru­ins of 104 houses, 205 graves and 20 sac­ri­fi­cial pits at Jiao­jia vil­lage in Ji­nan, Shan­dong.

The relics are from the Long­shan cul­ture, a late Ne­olithic civ­i­liza­tion in the mid­dle and lower reaches of the Yel­low River, named af­ter Long­shan mountain.

“Al­ready agri­cul­tural at that time, peo­ple had di­verse and rich food re­sources, and thus their physique changed,” Fang said.

Mil­let was the ma­jor crop and peo­ple raised pigs, ac­cord­ing to Fang. Pig bones and teeth were found in some graves.

Ac­cord­ing to the find­ings, taller men were found in larger tombs, pos­si­bly be­cause such peo­ple had a high sta­tus and were able to ac­quire bet­ter food.

Shan­dong lo­cals be­lieve height to be one of their defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics. Con­fu­cius (551-479 BC), a na­tive of the re­gion, was said to be about 1.9 me­ters tall.

Of­fi­cial statis­tics back up the claim. In 2015, the av­er­age height of men aged 18 in Shan­dong was 1.75 m, com­pared with a na­tional av­er­age of 1.72 m.

Ru­ins of rows of houses in the area in­di­cate that peo­ple lived quite com­fort­able lives, with sep­a­rate bed­rooms and kitchens, ac­cord­ing to the ex­ca­va­tions.

Col­or­ful pot­tery and jade ar­ti­cles have also been found, said Wang Fen, head of the Jiao­jia ex­ca­va­tion team.

The area was be­lieved to be the po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and cul­tural cen­ter of north­ern Shan- dong 5,000 years ago. Ru­ins of ditches and clay em­bank­ments were also found.

The Jiao­jia ru­ins fill a cul­tural gap 4,500 to 5,000 years ago in the lower reaches of the Yel­low River, ac­cord­ing to Wang Yongbo of the Shan­dong Pro­vin­cial In­sti­tute of Ar­chae­ol­ogy.

Ar­chae­ol­o­gists found ob­vi­ous dam­age to the head and leg bones of some of the bod­ies and to pot­tery and jade ar­ti­cles in six large tombs. The dam­age may have been caused not long af­ter the buri­als and may be due to power strug­gles among high-rank­ing peo­ple.

Li Bo­qian, an ar­chae­ol­o­gist with Pek­ing Uni­ver­sity, said the ex­ca­va­tions showed Jiao­jia in a tran­si­tion phase, but proved the ex­is­tence of an­cient states 5,000 years ago in the basin of the lower Yel­low River.

The size of the Jiao­jia site has been quadru­pled to 1 square kilo­me­ter. Cur­rently, only 2,000 square me­ters have been ex­ca­vated.

“Fur­ther study and ex­ca­va­tion of the site is of great value to our un­der­stand­ing of the origin of cul­ture in East China,” said Zhou Xiaobo, deputy head of the Shan­dong Bureau of Cul­tural Her­itage.

JIANG LI / FOR CHINA DAILY

The ar­chae­o­log­i­cal site in Ji­nan, Shan­dong prov­ince, where the skele­ton of an un­usu­ally tall man was found.

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