Archaeologists Say They Have Unearthed A 5,000-Year-Old Graveyard of Giants in China

Archaeologists Say They Have Unearthed A 5,000-Year-Old Graveyard of Giants in China

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Archaeologists working in eastern China have unearthed 205 graves of an unknown race of “unusually tall and strong” people. Labelled as ‘giants’ in comparison to the average height of other Chinese men, the people who lived in the region apparently flourished along the banks of the Yellow River about 5,000 years ago.

Taller than Modern Chinese Men

People’s Daily Online reports that skeletal measurements of at least one of the Neolithic ‘giants’ reached 1.9 meters (6ft.2), with quite a few others at 1.8 meters (5ft.9) or taller. While these may not be heights everyone would consider “giant,” they are taller than the average for modern Chinese men, which is estimated at about 1.74 meters (5ft.7).

A grave at the archaeological site in Jinan, Shandong province, where the skeletons of “unusually tall and strong” people have been found.

A grave at the archaeological site in Jinan, Shandong province, where the skeletons of “unusually tall and strong” people have been found. ( JIANG LI/CHINA DAILY )

As an interesting side note, People’s Daily Online adds, that Confucius (551-479 BC) was also said to be about 1.9 meters tall and was a native of the same region. Even now, it is said that people from this region tend to be among the tallest individuals in China.

Confucius.

Confucius. ( Public Domain ) Was he a ‘giant’ for his time?

According to Inquisitr, the largest of the individuals were also found in more elaborate tombs, which has led archaeologists to suggest those men were the leaders of their society and had better access to food. But there is also evidence for a possible power struggle between the ruling class –violence has been suggested by a damaged skull and broken leg bones, which were apparently damaged shortly after burial.

As an explanation for the more robust physique, Fang Hui, head of Shandong University's school of history and culture, said “Already agricultural at that time, people had diverse and rich food resources and thus their physique changed.” Specifically, Fang said the Neolithic people at the site ate millet and raised pigs. Evidence of pig bones and teeth have also been found in some graves. 

Apart from the graves, 104 houses and 20 sacrificial pits have been found at the site in Jiaojia village, Shandong Province. The homes had separate bedrooms and kitchens and may have been quite comfortable for the time. Pottery and jade artifacts have also been discovered.

The archaeological site in Shandong.

The archaeological site in Shandong. ( XINHUA NEWS )

People’s Daily Online reports that these are the ruins and artifacts left by a settlement of the Longshan Culture. The Longshan Culture was a “late Neolithic civilization in the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River.”

Jadeware produced during Longshan culture period, now collected in Shandong Museum.

Jadeware produced during Longshan culture period, now collected in Shandong Museum. ( CC BY SA 3.0 )

Scholars have uncovered many details about the Longshan Culture over the years. These were people who had advanced agriculture, farming techniques, and pottery making skills compared to their predecessors. Their buildings used the ‘rammed earth’ technique to create rectangular platforms (which can be found in a few locations in Shandong province) and they preferred to bury their dead in an area separate from where they lived. Most burials were rectangular pits dug for one adult. Children were placed in urns before they were buried. The evidence of pig, sheep, and cow bones in graves has suggested that they may have practiced divination as well. 

Cooking pot. Burnished black earthenware, Longshan culture (2400–1800 BC), Neolithic period.

Cooking pot. Burnished black earthenware, Longshan culture (2400–1800 BC), Neolithic period. ( CC BY SA 4.0 )

Only 2,000 sq. meters (21,527 sq. ft.) of the vast 1 sq. km (0.38 sq. mile) Neolithic settlement has been studied since 2016. Work will continue, as Zhou Xiaobo, deputy head of Shandong provincial bureau of cultural heritage, said “Further study and excavation of the site is of great value to our understanding of the origin of culture in east China.”

Top Image: This person may have seemed like a giant 5,000 years ago. Source: ASIAWIRE

By Alicia McDermott

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