Monday, 5 March 2012

Han period 'Pompeii' includes farmland

In the latest Antiquity Kidder, Liu and Li report on Sanyanzhuang, a settlement buried by catastrophic Yellow River floods around AD 23. This is a essentially a central Chinese Pompeii but without the burning. So far little of the settlement occupation area has been excavated but it appears that field systems around the site were preserved as well. Some exceptional preservation includes leaf megafossils (leaf casts), in this case of mulberry and elm trees. The report is basically descriptive and notes sampling for pollen. One can hope that in the future systematic flotation and phytolith sampling will be carried out, because a site like this provides an amazing opportunity to ground truth the reliability and biases of the (limited) textual sources on Han agriculture. Despite the fact that written sources refer to "row crop cultivation" (p. 46), as found here.

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