Neolithic Bamboo House and the Birthplace of Paddy Fields Found
The Chengdu Plain is an alluvial plain located on the western part of the Sichuan basin in southwestern China, which was the site of a recent breakthrough discovery. Six pieces of carbonized bamboo from a mud-bamboo house, along with tens of thousands of pottery pieces and evidence of ancient rice paddies have been found at the site called Baodun Ancient Town, according to South China Morning Post . The Neolithic Baodun culture thrived between 2700 BC-1700 BC in the Sichuan basin, and was renowned for its early advanced rice paddy cultivation.
The hand of a Chinese archaeologist at the Baodun site, adjacent to the Chinese Sanxingdui Ruins, carefully unearthing carbonized bamboo fragments that once were part of a mud bamboo house believed to be 4,500 years old. ( XinhuaNet)
Chinese Bamboo Houses Used The Wattle and Daub Method
The recently discovered Baodun carbonized bamboo fragments were used to build a mud Chinese bamboo house that was 4,500 years old (roughly 2400-2500 BC). The find is viewed by Chinese archaeologists as the oldest evidence of wattle and daub construction ever discovered on the Chengdu plain .
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The wattle and daub construction method is generally associated with ancient Chinese cultures, but, until now, the existence of this method 4,500 years ago was unverified. "The discovery has directly proved the existence of the bamboo-mud wall," said Tang Miao, deputy head of the Baodun project from the Chengdu Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute.
Baodun culture houses used bamboo lattice frames and layers of mud to create houses, according to Art Insider . The Baodun used bamboo frames instead of wooden ones because they were ideally suited to the local terrain and geography.
This ancient house construction method is found in many old cultures of the Neolithic period . The oldest every evidence of the wattle and daub construction method by the Ashanti people of Ghana , Africa dates back to 6,000 years ago.
Sanxingdui bronze head with its distinctive gold foil mask from the Kingdom of Shu, a later culture which is located close to the area where the carbonized bamboo fragments from the ancient mud bamboo house were recently found. (momo / CC BY 2.0 )
The Kingdom of Shu and Sophisticated Metallurgy
The Baodun bamboo house evidence lies in the heart of the upper reaches of the Yangtze River on the Chengdu Plain, which is also considered to be “the birthplace of rice cultivation” in China.
According to China.org, the recently discovered Baodun evidence will help archaeologists understand the mystery of the Sanxingdui civilization , a major Bronze Age culture discovered in 1986. Sanxingdui civilization is estimated to be about 4,800 years old, and it flourished pretty much next to the Baodun excavation site where the bamboo house fragments were recently unearthed. Sanxingdui was linked to the ancient Kingdom of Shu , which mysteriously vanished somewhere around 1200 or 1100 BC (over 3,000 years ago).
The Sanxingdui Ruins are considered to be part of the ancient Shu kingdom, which suggests that the Yellow River Civilization wasn’t the only advanced fertile river valley in ancient China. The Kingdom of Shu also displayed a high level technical knowledge with respect to bronze, jade and stone work. It is especially well known today for its stunning giant bronze mask statues. Some historians believe the achievements of the Shu people surpassed the Qin dynasty Terracotta Army.
A farmer planting rice seedlings in a flooded field. ( fenlio / Adobe Stock)
Ancient Bamboo Mud Houses and Early Chinese Rice Cultivation
As a cereal grain, domesticated rice is the single most consumed staple food all over the world, eaten by half the world’s population, particularly in Asia and Africa. Traditionally, ancient rice cultivation required flooded fields in which to plant the young rice seedlings. Since rice is so ubiquitously available today, we don’t often think about how the process was first “invented.” The finds at Baodun Ancient Town are a reminder of how old rice cultivation is in China.
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Lam Weng Cheong, an assistant professor at the Department of Anthropology at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, was quoted as saying:
“I think the discovery of associated rice paddies holds significance no less than the discovery of the cabin. Rice agriculture provides staple food, but it involves complicated coordination of labor. The discovery of the rice paddies can provide an important piece of missing puzzle for understanding the bronze age culture in the Chengdu plain.”
Rice cultivation originated very early on in China’s prehistory and the region of Baodun culture is especially significant because it would eventually become an “agricultural hub of dynastic China.” These long-gone local farmers led the charge, which transformed the area into China’s most fertile agricultural belt. The discovery of the Baodun culture mud bamboo house and its connections with the Shu kingdom has been revolutionary in understanding early rice cultivation and bamboo-mud building methods.
Top image: This mud and bamboo house in Bali, Indonesia, with rice paddies in the background, captures what the Chinese Baodun style of wattle and daub construction must have looked like based on the carbonized bamboo fragment recently unearthed at the archaeological site in Chengdu, China. Source: LoweStock / Adobe Stock
By Sahir Pandey
China.org.cn. 2021. Remains of 4,500-year-old bamboo-mud cabin found in China . Available at: http://www.china.org.cn/arts/2021-06/08/content_77555003.htm.
McSpadden, K. 2021. Archaeologists unearth evidence of 4,500-year-old ancient Chinese cabin and nearby rice paddy. Available at: https://www.scmp.com/news/people-culture/article/3137007/archaeologists-unearth-evidence-4500-year-old-ancient-chinese.
Pietroni, D. 2021. Excavation at China Reveal Ancient Bamboo Fragments of Baodun Culture. Available at: https://www.art-insider.com/excavation-at-china-reveal-ancient-bamboo-fragments-of-baodun-culture/2342.