In order to cooperate with city construction, archaeological team from Beijing Municipal Institute of Cultural Relics began the excavation from February 2016 at Hugezhuang, Houbeiying and Gucheng villages in the Tongzhou district, Beijing. There were 1092 tombs, 69 kilns, 8 ash pits, 10 water wells and 3 roads along with over 4000 pieces of artifacts unearthed.
The excavation in the archaeological site of Tongzhou Beijing
City ruins of the Han Dynasty
The city located in the Gucheng village was dated to the Han Dynasty, which is the only Han dynasty city found at the Tongzhou area so far. The wall foundation is well preserved. The ancient city composes of four parts: wall foundation, remains inside the city, city moat and remains outside the city. The foundation of the north wall was about 606 meters long, south foundation 575 meters, east 589 meters and west about 555 meters. The four walls altogether enclosed the settlement. The city plan is roughly square-shaped, covering an area of 350,000 square meters. In the city, a road aligned with the north-south direction was discovered dating to Ming and Qing dynasty. There was another road dating to the Jin Dynasty found underneath the previous road. The moat was located 11-13 meters away outside the south city wall, the course of which was roughly in parallel with the city wall. It was about 30 to 50 meters wide.
Adult urn burials dating back to the Warrior State Period
Abundance of urn burials
62 urn burials dating back to the late Warrior State Period and Western Han Dynasty were excavated from the Hugezhuang village. Among them 23 urn burials contained adult human skeletons, being the first discovery of adult type urn burial in Beijing. For children burials, two urns or pots were covered together as a container for skeleton. Considering the size, urns used for adult humans would have been made specially. Urns for adults were large in size, generally 2 meters long. To ensure that the pair could be tightly closed, there were buckles attached to the urns. Most urns contained human remains, identities of which await further research. Urn burial is a type of burial custom particular to East Asian culture. The discovery of this cemetery contributes to our understanding of the cultural transmission around the Bohai Rim Region.
Counting sticks ‘Suanchou’
A diversity of artifact types was discovered including pottery, porcelain, glazed pottery, bronze, iron, lead, and leather artifacts as well as raw material. At the Houbeiying village, excavation yielded 26 pieces of counting rods ‘Suanchou’ which were made of bones. A large collection of pottery models of house, barn, toilet and figurine were buried within tombs. As the Han people believed “Honoring the dead as the living”that the decedents also dwell in a similar world after life, burial goods were generally mimics of household products. This collection of grave goods is a reflection of the daily life during the Han Dynasty, which provides straightforward materials for understand the social life at that time.
This excavation enriches our understandings of cultural history at secondary city centers, which additionally links up neighboring cities around Beijing region. Nonetheless the current excavation has only revealed the location of the Han city while the research into the settlement within the city has not begun yet. The next excavation is about to start next year in order to unravel the layout of the city moat and other related issues. To sum up, the result achieved so far renders salient information about the Han culture in north China. Besides, it also addresses the important issues about the cultural interaction during the Han Dynasty between central China, northeast China and the Korean Peninsula. (Translator: Dong Ningning)