Majiabang culture


Neolithic culture in the lower Yangtze River region of China. It was named after the site of Majiabang in Jiaxing City, Zhejiang Province. It was mainly distributed in the Taihu Lake area, south to the north bank of the Qiantang River in Zhejiang Province, and northwest to the area of Changzhou in Jiangsu Province. According to radiocarbon dating and correction, it began around 5000 BC and developed into Songze culture around 4000 BC. The discovery and establishment of the Majiabang culture and its successors Songze culture and Liangzhu culture show that the Neolithic culture in the Taihu Lake area has a long history, a self-contained system, and distinctive regional characteristics.

In the Majiabang culture, the inhabitants mainly engaged in rice farming, and many sites have unearthed rice grains, rice grains and rice straw objects, which have been identified as having commonly cultivated indica and japonica rice. Agricultural tools include perforated axes, bone plows, wooden shovels, ceramic mortars and pestles. Domestic animals such as dogs, pigs and buffaloes were also raised. The fishing and hunting economy also played an important role, and fishing and hunting tools such as bone arrowheads, stone arrowheads, bone fish darts, pottery net pendants, and the remains of terrestrial and aquatic animals were often found. In Wu County Cao Shoe Mountain, weaving of wefted ribbed woven fabric made of Ge hemp fiber was unearthed, which was far more progressive than ordinary plain linen. A number of house remnants were found. At that time, there were wooden pillars with mortise and tenon construction, and reeds were woven between the wooden pillars and then painted with mud for the walls; the roofs were covered with reeds, bamboo mats and straw bundles; the living surfaces were rammed and mixed with gravel and conch shells; some houses also had drains dug outdoors. Red pottery, kettles and rectangular horizontal ceramic grates are the unique cooking utensils of this culture. The deceased were buried in public cemeteries, and the burial goods were not very rich and not very different from one tomb to another. A special burial custom of covering human skulls with pottery or placing human skulls in pottery was found in Changzhou Weidun and Wuxian Cao Shoes Mountain; several same-sex burial tombs with the deceased of similar age were also found, which is a burial custom of matrilineal clan society. The successor of Majiabang culture is Songze culture.

1、Earlier discovery and larger area–Qiu Cheng site

Excavated in 1957, the Qiu Cheng site in Huzhou City, Zhejiang Province, has Neolithic sites in the east, south and southwest of Qiu Cheng, so it is called Qiu Cheng site, with a total area of about 30,000 square meters, divided into three cultural layers: upper, middle and lower.

The lower layer, which is about 6,000 years old. This layer is the larger architectural remains. The tools of production are mainly stone tools, with the most characteristic features being the adze with a curved back and the perforated axe with an oblique back and tongue blade. There are also more bone tools such as arrowhead chisels, pestles and needles. Living vessels are mainly sandwiched red pottery and clay red pottery. Ware form waist-rimmed kettle, kettle-shaped tripod, trumpet-shaped ring foot beans and abdomen with a pair of bull-nosed earthenware jars, etc., as well as cattle, deer, pigs, fish and other animal remains.

The middle layer, about 5000 years ago, belongs to the Songze culture. The stone tools are mainly flattened and perforated axes and long stone pounds. Most of the living vessels are black pottery, including tripods, beans, (upper and lower vessels), jars, cups, solutions, cylindrical vessels, etc. The shapes are regular, and some of them have circular and triangular openwork patterns.

The upper layer, i.e., the wall part, was found in 1957 to be accompanied by stamped pottery, primitive celadon, red pottery, black pottery and stoneware, copper arrowheads, jade wangfu and jade juan in the rammed earth, the latest being stamped pottery and primitive pottery. In the upper layer of the Qiu Cheng Dong Nan culture pile, there are relics such as sand-clad rope-patterned pottery tripod, triangular slanting handle stone groundbreaker, and arc-backed segmental stone adze.

2, a little later discovered, only half the area of Jiaxing Majiabang site

In the early spring of 1959, Jiaxing Nanhu Township, Tiantiao Bridge Majiabang place in the compost digging pits found a large number of animal bones and ancient relics. 1959 March, Zhejiang Provincial Cultural Relics Management Committee and the provincial museum, Hangzhou University Department of History, Hangzhou Normal College Department of History and other six units formed an archaeological team to excavate.

The site was excavated by a team of six units, including the Provincial Museum, the Department of History of Hangzhou University and the Department of History of Hangzhou Normal College. The site of Majiabang is located 7.5 kilometers southwest of Jiaxing, covering an area of about 15,000 square meters, and the excavation area is in the central part of the site, with 5 probes, totaling 213 square meters. The cultural layer under the topsoil layer is divided into two layers; the upper layer is mainly gray-black clay, with red-burned clay layer and silt layer, 12-80 cm thick, containing animal bones, stone adzes, bronze stones, bone arrowheads and pottery pieces of various textures, as well as architectural remains; the lower layer is a black clay containing a large number of decayed animal bone fragments, 15-75 cm thick, containing more animal bones than the upper layer, as well as bone pipes, bone cones, bone needles, bone arrowheads, as well as stone axes, bronze stones and pottery shards. Burials were found in the mud at the junction of the upper and lower layers, and 30 human skeletons were unearthed, six of which had burial objects beside them, with production tools placed at the waist, ornaments at the head, and pottery in various positions. The excavated artifacts include one perforated stone axe, two ceramic beans, four jars, one basin, one spinning wheel, and two jade beads. The remains of a rectangular house were also found, 7 meters from north to south and 3 meters from east to west, with the door facing east and a circle of pillar holes around the perimeter, with surviving wooden pillars and some wooden pillar holes with boards placed at the bottom. The interior is a processed yellow-green earth surface, and there are remnants of red-burned earth blocks with traces of branches and reeds piled up on the walls. Carbonized round-horned ling was also found in the lower cultural layer, similar to the South Lake ling.

From the excavated artifacts and remains, the production tools of ground stone tools have holes stone axe, arc-backed stone adze; household utensils of sandwich red pottery plain face waist-rimmed kettle, bull-nosed amphora jar, flat-bottomed divorce with mouth, as well as the ground wooden construction housing, public cemetery and prone straight limb burial style, etc., are the main features of the Majiabang culture period, is a cultural form different from the primitive culture of the Yellow River basin.

The excavation of the Majiabang site attracted the attention of the archaeological community at home and abroad, and in May 1959, the Xinhua News Agency sent out a news release and recorded it in the “Important News of the People’s Republic of China”.

Final naming process

Before 1977, when the Majiabang culture was officially named, there were not many sites of Majiabang culture found and relatively little information was available, among which the first excavation of the lower layer of Qiu Cheng and the eighth to tenth layers of Cao Shoes Mountain were more abundant, so there was a saying in the archaeological circles that “according to the standard of determining archaeological culture and its naming custom at that time, these remains should be named ‘Qiu Cheng culture'”. There were also proposals to name it “Cao Shoes Mountain Culture”, and some even classified it as “Jiangnan Qingliangang Culture”. Such a debate lasted for 16 years.

Wu Ruzuo, a researcher at the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (a native of Jiaxing City, Zhejiang Province), was the first to propose the name “Majiabang Culture” in an article in the 5th issue of Archaeology in 1975. At the Neolithic Symposium of the Lower Yangtze River held in Nanjing in November 1977, due to the insistence of archaeologists such as Xia Nai (Wu Ruzuo’s supervisor at Zhejiang University), it was confirmed that the Majiabang culture, represented by the Majiabang site in Jiaxing, was the representative of the early Neolithic culture of the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River and the Taihu Lake basin. Only then was the Majiabang culture officially named.

At the Third Annual Meeting of the National Archaeological Society held in Hangzhou in December 1981, experts and scholars listened to the excavation report of the Luojiajiao site, which deepened their understanding of the Majiabang culture, and at the Symposium on Ancient Cultures of the Taihu Lake Basin held in Jiaxing in November 1984, archaeologist Professor Su Bingqi gave high praise to the occurrence and development of the Majiabang culture. The Majiabang culture has been included in the Encyclopedia of Great Britain and the 1990 publication of the Encyclopedia of China? Archaeological Volume, which established its status in the archaeology of prehistoric culture.

The results of subsequent archaeological excavations at the Luojiajiao site in Tongxiang, the Wujiabu site in Yuhang, and the Weidun site in Changzhou have strongly confirmed the view of the Majiabang culture as a representative of the early Neolithic culture in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River and in the Taihu Lake basin. In particular, the carbon-14 determination of the fourth layer of the Luojiajiao site is more than 7,100 years old, and the leading creation in rice cultivation, weaving, pottery making and handicraft making is undoubtedly a powerful correction to the popular view that the Majiabang culture developed from the Hemudu culture at that time.

  1. The Meiyan site in Wujiang discovered at the same time

In the same year, the Meiyan site in Wujiang excavated by the cultural relics task force of Jiangsu Province also contains this kind of remains. 60s, some people attributed it to Qingliangang culture. Later, some people further designated as Qingliangang culture Jiangnan type of Majiabang period. 70s onwards, some people distinguish it from Qingliangang culture, put forward the naming of Majiabang culture, now generally recognized.

4, Luojiajiao site

Located in Zhejiang Tongxiang County, 2 kilometers northeast of Shimen Town. 1956, local farmers in the paddy fields dug out a large number of animal bones, pottery pieces and beautifully engraved pig tusk jewelry. The provincial cultural relics department sent staff to investigate and found that this is the largest Neolithic site in Zhejiang so far. The site covers a total area of 120,000 square meters, and was listed as a provincial key cultural relic protection unit by the provincial government in March 1963.

From November 1979 to January 1980, the provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology and Jiaxing District Cultural Relics Management Committee organized an archaeological team to excavate the Luojiajiao site with the construction of farmland. The total area excavated was 1338 square meters, and 53 ash pits were cleared. Four cultural layers were found, and each cultural layer was rich in objects, obtaining 794 small numbered artifacts, more than 50,000 pounds of pottery pieces, more than 2,000 pounds of animal bones, and also found wooden building components with mortise and tenon and plant remains such as rice. 156 grains of rice were unearthed, including 55 grains of japonica and 101 grains of indica. The four cultural layers of the Luojiajiao site all belong to the Majiabang culture, representing several different development stages of the Majiabang culture, enriching the connotation of the Majiabang culture and finding the early types of the Majiabang culture, which is another significant achievement of China’s archaeological work. The reeds excavated from culture layer 4 of Luojiajiao were determined by carbon 14 to be 7040±150 years old, and the pottery shards excavated from culture layer 4 were determined by thermoluminescence to be 7170±l0% years old, and the results of both determinations are basically consistent. The results of both determinations are in general agreement. The Majiabang culture is dated to 4000-5000 B.C.

The excavation of the Luojiajiao site has attracted the attention of scholars in China and abroad. 1987 Japanese delegation of agricultural history made a special trip to the Luojiajiao site to examine the Majiabang culture, and in 1989 the Japanese delegation of archaeology of the origin of rice culture in East Asia visited the Luojiajiao site and said, “The excavation of rice from the Luojiajiao site proves that this is one of the birthplaces of rice cultivation in Japan.” Agronomist Tadashi Watanabe, a professor at Japan Broadcasting University, a member of the delegation, said:- “Books and magazines published in Japan about the Majiabang culture all write Luojiajiao as Luojiagu, which is because it is the birthplace of rice.”

5、The distribution place of Jiaxing City

The important sites of Majiabang culture type in Jiaxing city are Majiabang, Wujiabang, Ganjiadai, Zhongjiagang in Jiaxing; Luojiajiao, Tanjiawan, Zhangjiadai, Xinqiao, Wujiagang wall gate in Tongxiang; Guojia Shiqiao and Tombqiao Port in Haining; Pengcheng in Haiyan, Dagengtang in Pinghu, Xiaohenggang and Daxiang sites in Jiashan.

6、 Taihu Lake basin of Su, Xi, Chang, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Lake area distribution at

There are the lower layers of Qiu Cheng in Huzhou, Wu Jia Bu in Hangzhou, Yue Cheng in Suzhou, Cao Shoe Mountain in Wuxian, Meizhong and Yuan Jia Dai in Wujiang, Songze in Qingpu in Shanghai and Wei Dun in Changzhou and Panjiatang in Wujin.

7、Guxi River Basin in Dangtu County, Anhui Province

There are Diaoyutai and Lixin in Gumiao Town, Sunjiashan and Baizishan in Taibai Town, Funtou and Funcun, and Zhangjiadian in Xinshi Town (now part of Maanshan City) .

Cultural Features and Stages

Main cultural characteristics

①Prevalence of prone burial. Some of the skulls of the deceased covered with pottery, or put the skull in another pottery, which is a more special kind of burial customs. ②Pottery is mainly red pottery, red on the outside and black on the inside or red on the surface, black clay pottery as a feature, more plain, often with a red pottery coat on the outside, the shape of the vessel is representative of the wide eaves kettle (or waist kettle), □ba-shaped foot beans, jars with bull-nosed ears, cone-footed tripods, etc. ③The use of jade juan, jade and other decorative items, this kind of jade later became the traditional ornaments in China.


According to the stratigraphic accumulation of the Weidun site, combined with the stratigraphic relationship and pottery evolution of the Luojiajiao, Majiabang and Caooshan sites, the Majiabang culture can now be divided into three phases.

Early period:The lower layer of Majiabang and the 4th layer of Luojiajiao. The pottery is mainly gray and black pottery and gray and red pottery, and the rope pattern is more common, and the shape of the vessel is mainly kettle.

The middle period: for the upper layer of Majiabang, Luojiajiao 1st, 2nd, 3rd layer, the lower layer of Weidun and the 10th layer of Cao Shoes Mountain. Pottery to sand (including clam) red and brown pottery, there is still a certain amount of gray and black pottery and gray and red pottery, with more plain surface, rope pattern basically disappeared, the shape of the vessel is still mainly kettle, a small number of tripods and more beans, and jars with bull-nosed ears.

Late period: for the middle layer of the puduun and the 8th and 9th layer of the Cao Shoes Mountain. The pottery is mainly sandwiched red pottery and clay red-clad pottery, and the main shapes are kettle, tripod and bean.



Agricultural production was the basis of the settled life of the residents of Majiabang culture. A remnant wooden shovel was found in the dun, only the body of the shovel remains, both sides are cut into a flat shape, the blade is thin, it should be a digging tool. The number of stone knives used for harvesting is relatively small, and the production is also relatively rough. The main crop was rice, and rice was found in the lower layers of the Luojiajiao, Cao Shoes Mountain and Songze sites, and was identified as both indica and japonica rice. The japonica rice excavated in the third and fourth layers of Luojiajiao was dated around 5000 years ago, and is the earliest japonica rice remains found in China. At the same time, indica rice was also found at the Luojiajiao site. From the analysis of the ratio of the number of japonica and indica rice grains, the cultivation of indica rice was more developed than japonica rice at that time. At the same time, domestic animals such as pigs, dogs and buffaloes were also raised. The fishing and hunting economy also occupied a more important position. Most of the bone arrowheads found are willow leaf-shaped. In the lower layers of the sites of Majiabang, Songze and Weidun, there are a large number of animal bone piles. Such as the Majiabang has a pile of animal bones up to 20 to 30 cm thick. The wild animal bones in Weidun have been identified as plum deer, four unlike, wild boar, roe deer, raccoon, crab mongoose and birds, grass turtle, soft-shelled turtle, carp, and so on. Among them, the number of plum deer, tetrapod and wild boar is higher. Wild peach and apricot plum kernels and diamond horns were also found at some sites, which are examples of people engaged in gathering activities.

The grinding technology of stone tools is higher, and the types of tools are mainly (Shi Ben) with thicker body, and most of the perforated stone axes are tongue-shaped and thicker. This grinding exquisite phosphorus, axe, mainly should be processing wood tools. Wooden tools such as shovels and trumpet-shaped tools were found at the Weidun site. In the lower end of the trumpet-shaped ware, and dark red or black and slightly glossy paint. Pottery has sandwich pottery and clay pottery two kinds, are handmade. General pottery color is not very pure. The surface of the ware is plain, and the decoration has pile pattern, string pattern, open hole, round nest pattern, carved dot pattern, rope pattern, basket pattern and so on. The main shapes are kettle, tripod, bean, jar, urn, basin, bowl, divorce and so on. There are also pottery ovens, grates, three-legged jug-shaped vessels, etc., which are not seen in other cultures. Most of the fires are not high, the pottery is soft, and the pottery-making technology is still at a low stage. Five fragments of cloth from the first 4,000 years were found at the Cao Shoes Mountain site, and it was identified that the raw material might be wild kudzu. It is a ribbed fabric with weft threads, and the density is about 10 warp threads per square centimeter, about 26 – 28 weft threads in the ribbed part, and 13 – t4 in the ground part. Pattern has mountain-shaped twill and diamond-shaped twill, tissue structure is twisted yarn rib, embedded around the ring twill, and ribbed edge organization. This is the earliest textile object in China.

Gathering and fishing and hunting economy still occupy an important position in the production activities of the Majiabang clan. Bone arrowheads found at various sites are mostly willow leaf-shaped and very sharp and pointed. Some sites have a large number of animal bone piles, including the Majiabang site has a pile of animal bones up to 20 to 30 cm thick. The wild animal bones excavated at the Weidun site have been identified, including plum deer, four unlike, wild boar, roe deer, raccoon, crab, oyster, etc. In addition, there are various birds and aquatic animals such as grass carp, soft-shelled turtle, carp. Some sites also found wild peach, apricot plum fruit and diamond horn, which are examples of people’s gathering and fishing and hunting activities.

The inhabitants of the Majiabang culture also kept domestic animals such as pigs, dogs, and buffaloes. The skull of a dog found in the early piles of the Majiabang culture at the Cao Shoes Mountain site is between that of a wolf and a modern dog, indicating that the dog was domesticated from the wolf and had become a domestic animal by this time.

The development of handicraft production in the Majiabang culture was uneven, with high levels of stoneware production technology and geomantic textile technology, while the development of pottery was still at a relatively backward stage. Archaeological discovery of pottery kettle, tripod, beans, jars, urns, pots, bowls, divorces, etc., but also unearthed pottery stove, grates, three-legged long-tailed bird-shaped pottery pot. These pottery are handmade, mainly sandwich pottery, clay pottery is rare, the general pottery color is not very pure, the surface of the ware to the plain surface without decoration for more, no color pottery. Most of the pottery fire is not high. The emergence of the grate is a major invention of the Majiabang culture; wide eaves pottery kettle is a representative object of Majiabang culture. In the handicraft production, jade and stone ware manufacturing technology developed faster, and many sites have found beautifully made jade, mainly jade blocks, jade rings, jade bracelets and other decorative items. The development of the jade industry in this period laid the foundation for the brilliant achievements of jade in the Songze and Liangzhu cultures that followed.

Residence and burial

At the Cao Shoes Mountain site, the remnants of a nearly circular house base surrounded by 10 pillar holes were found, covering an area of about 6 square meters. At the Majiabang site, a rectangular house foundation with an area of about 20 square meters was found, with five pillar holes preserved on each of the east and west sides and three on the south side. Some of the pillar holes of the houses in the two places mentioned above still have wooden pillars left or have rotten wooden boards at the bottom of the holes. This wooden board and the role of the column base is similar. Wooden pillars with mortise and tenon construction were excavated from the Weidun site. The dwelling surfaces found at the Qiucheng site were built with a mixture of sand, small gravel, pottery, shells, and bone slag, and small ditches were dug in the dwelling area, with a long, stone-built public fire ditch nearby.

More than 200 burials were found in Majiabang, Wudong and Caooshuishan. Most of them are single person burial, but there are also supine straight limb burial, flexed limb burial and side burial, etc. Most of the heads face north. In Cao Shoe Hill and Wei Dun cemetery, several same-sex burial tombs were found, and the dead in the same tomb were of similar age. Some of the skulls of the deceased were covered with pottery such as kettle, bowl, basin and beans in Cao Shoes Mountain, and some of the skulls were placed in another pottery. The burial objects are generally few, mainly daily pottery. Among the 106 tombs in Cao Shoes Mountain, 25 have no burial objects, the others have 1-4 pieces, and the most is an adult female tomb with 9 pieces. Most of the burial objects are 1 piece of food vessel, or 1 piece each of food vessel and cooking vessel. The food utensils are mostly beans, followed by bowls, jars, pots, cups, etc. The cooking utensils are mostly kettles, or kettles are replaced by tripods. Only two tombs were buried with production tools, each with a stone axe. Some tombs also buried jade blocks, jade rings, jade bracelets and other decorative items, as well as antlers, animal teeth, mussel shells, etc.. It is generally believed that the Majiabang culture is in the period of matrilineal clan society. The appearance of same-sex burial tombs mentioned above is largely a reflection of this stage in burial customs (see Ancient Chinese Burial System).

Relationship with other cultures

Some people believe that the Majiabang culture developed from the Hemudu culture. Those who hold this opinion designate the 3rd and 4th layers of the Hemudu site as the Hemudu culture and attribute the 2nd layer to the Majiabang culture, and believe that the two cultures were successively developed by the stratigraphic superposition and the evolution of artifacts. Another opinion is that the 1st to 4th layers of the Hemudu site belong to the Hemudu culture, while the Majiabang culture has another source and needs to be explored again. Those who hold this opinion point out that the middle and late stages of the Majiabang culture are roughly equivalent to the age of the 2nd layer of the Hemudu site, and they belong to two archaeological cultures, and there is a relationship of mutual influence and exchange. For example, the clay outer red and black pottery and jars with bull-nosed ears in layer 2 of the Hemudu site have similarities with those of the Majiabang culture, which are the result of the influence of the Majiabang culture in the late stage of the Hemudu culture; at the same time, a remnant wide eaves kettle, which is a representative pottery of the Majiabang culture, was also found in the Hemudu site, which was obviously produced under the influence of the Majiabang culture.

When comparing the Wei Dun site of the Majiabang culture with the North Yin Yang Ying site in Nanjing, the differences in artifacts are major, but there are also some similar artifacts, such as flattened perforated stone hoes, perforated stone axes, flat footed cauldron shaped tripods, converging mouth short rimmed beans, single ear jars and jars with flowing rimmed feet, etc., which shows a close relationship between the two. In addition, individual wide eaves kettles have been found at the Qingliangang site in Huai’an, northern Jiangsu, which are the product of the influence of the Majiabang culture.

As for the destination of the Majiabang culture, six burials were found in the 7th layer of the Cao Shoes Mountain site, with similar head orientation and burial style to the 8th and 9th layers of Majiabang culture burials stacked under them, while the pottery quality and most of the vessel shapes have the characteristics of Songze culture, so some opinions take this layer as an example of the transition from Majiabang culture to Songze culture. The evolutionary development from the Majiabang culture to the Songze culture can be determined through the universal discovery of the superimposed relationship between the upper and lower layers of the Songze culture and the overall analysis of the connotations of the remains of these two cultures.

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