4. Sourcing Raw Materials

Searching the wider environs of individual sites can add a great deal to our understanding of how stone tool production was organised. Xuejiagang culture sites are found in a variety of lowland, riverine and more elevated settings, with the result that raw material availability also tends to vary (Wang Youping 2006). In searching for raw materials, we use the 1:1,500,000 geological map of the middle and lower reaches of the Yangze River and other geological surveys (Fig. 5).

Figure 5

Figure 5: Geology of the mid- and lower reaches of the Yangze River

The slates discussed in this article are generally metamorphosed mud and silt (Fig. 6). Implements made of these materials are often large, particularly in funerary contexts, and at many sites it is not easy to find raw materials of sufficient size and quality nearby. For example, no slate outcrops have been identified in the reaches of Wanhe and Qianshui River where the Xuejiagang type site is located. If stone implements were made on site, then the raw materials must have been transported some considerable distance. Some have suggested that these slates may come from the Huang mountain in the south Anhui Province, where the range of available raw materials is similar to that found at Xuejiagang. Elsewhere, such as the Hubei and Jiangxi Provinces, the conditions are rather different, making it difficult, even with thin-section data, to differentiate between several localities where slate may have been obtained. The picture is a little clearer for igneous materials, such as peridotite, dunite, troctolite, gabbro and diorite, where sources were found in Pt2 geological layers in north Jiangxi Province, due west of Dabie Mountain and in Meishan, Hubei Province. On the basis of present evidence, it seems that the raw materials used for making Xuejiagang culture stone tools are mainly from four areas; around Dabie mountain, in south Anhui and north Jiangxi Provinces, and at East Wuxue and Huangshi in Hubei Province. A few additional implements reflect the use of rhyolite hornstones around Taihu in the lower reaches of the Yangze River.

There has been little excavation of stone sources themselves, but we do get glimpses of production elsewhere. At Xuejiagang, the excavator found a stack of raw material, lying close to several large grindstones. The precise date of these materials is uncertain. However, they were found under layers belonging to the Shang dynasty and on a yellow soil horizon dated to the Neolithic. Of the pieces in the stack of materials, most are in the rough, some with a weathered or cortical surface, while others are stone blanks. But to date, no stone hammers or cores have been unearthed on the site. This suggests that Xuejiagang was not the primary processing site. Material generally arrived as a blank to be finished by craftsmen once it had been selected and dressed elsewhere. Only through further work on site, particularly in deposits associated with occupation, will we be able to test this possibility any further. The results of survey at Guayushan suggest that this may have served as a production site. A wide variety of stone tools, cores and blanks (some of them perforated) suggest that the area witnessed a range of production processes. Grindstones and adze-making debris were also unearthed in tombs at Gushan along with semi-finished and reworked Yue axes. Dawangling is one of the only excavated sites that has a clear and unambiguous association with production during the Xuejiagang culture period. Here there are blanks of stone Yue axes, adzes, perforated implements, cores and grindstones. Finished products were also recovered from Dawangling, among them Yue axes, adzes and perorated knives.


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Last updated: Wed Jul 29 2009