Unveil the secret Hedang Shell Mound

Foshan Daily 2017-05-19

Located in Wugang Road, Hedang Village, Lanshi, Hedang Shell Mound is a key cultural relic protection site in Guangdong with an area of more than 10,000 square meters. The archaeological excavation lasts from 1977 to 1978 and the excavation report was not released until October, 2005 in the form of a book, which described the hard and wise life of Hedang Man in the Neolithic Age 4,000 years ago.


A number of remains including pottery shards, stone tools and human skeletons with archaeological value were safely placed in Guangdong Museum and Foshan Museum.


The pottery spinning wheels


All kinds of tattoos on stamped polymer clay


4,000 years ago, Hedang was humid and covered by rivers


About 3,000 to 4,000 years ago, an ethnic group named Hedang tribe lived in this area: they gathered together, made pottery, processed plant fiber into clothes with pottery spinning wheels, collected stone materials all around, made simple fishing and hunting tools by themselves and threw countless shells at the foot of the mountain, surprisingly forming the relic of an age——Shell Mound.

The polishing pierced oyster shell tool


In the 1970s, Guangdong archaeologists discovered this relic and excavated 776 square meters of it, unveiling many unknown historical codes: for example, so far, Hedang Man is the earliest Foshan man to produce pottery with pottery wheel; they pulled out teeth as an adult symbol...... All of these historical discoveries describe the production and living picture of Foshan people in the Neolithic Age.


Agriculture was not well-developed at that time


Besides collecting surrounding stones, Hedang Man also collected stones from distant places. In Xiqiao Mountain, they discovered a kind of stone with smooth texture to be made into all kinds of shapes (a volcanic lava called felsite or silicified rock). They polished and cut these stones into the shapes they needed.


There is no relic of growing corps in Hedang area. Yang Shiting, a famous expert of relics and museology in Guangdong thought that in the late Neolith Age, agriculture was not well-developed in Hedang area. Instead, they went fishing and hunting for a living and tamed wild pig at the foot of the mountain.


Hedang Man was relatively short. Males were 1.71~1.60-meter-tall while the average stature of females was around 1.53 meter.


Because they ate hard food like shells and nuts for a long time, most of them had periodontosis and decayed teeth. Besides, the medium cooked meat, fish and spiral shells were hard to digest and easy to get encroached by parasite. Lethal diseases were threatening the life of Hedang Man.


Under heavy physical labor, few Hedang Man could live to over 56 years old.


Excavation scene in the 1970s


They created the early civilization of Foshan


The soil layer of the excavation area of 776 square meters in Hedang includes cultural relics of three ages: the upper layer is relic from Tang and Song Dynasty to modern times; the middle layer is the hard-surface relic of red sintering soil and lots of relics and tombs in the Neolithic Age; the bottom layer is the shell layer with intensive cave relics and tombs in the late Neolithic Age.


As early Foshan men, they adjusted to the natural environment and attempted to change the adverse influence from surrounding environment.


According to the analysis of scholars, the hard-surface relic of red sintering soil in the middle and bottom cultural layers was made by Hedang Man to avoid humid environment. Building a house on the burned ground could not only keep it cool but also block miasma.


In order to keep warm, they ground animal bones into bone needles and sewed animal fur into clothes. Plant fiber like linen and silk was made into clothes by spinning wheels made of pottery.


They also made different shapes of pottery, such as kettle, tin, pot, plate and bean with clay, which have different functions. With the development of skills, they invented a tool pottery car, speeding up the production and making the shape regular and nice.


Social relations of Hedang Man


The Hedang culture was in the late primitive society. Hard work and rich resource made surplus, which gave birth to private ownership.


The social division of labor was clearer. Females knitted at home while males went fishing and hunting. Some craftsmen appeared in the tribe, producing delicate accessories like bracelets, headwear and combs.


There was a special custom in this area: when young people in the tribe grew into adulthood, most of them would pull out the front teeth. So far, some people in Guangxi and the Gaoshan nationality in Taiwan still keep this custom.


The archaeologists revealed that the Hedang Shell Mound taking up over 10,000 square meters was only excavated for 776 square meters. More historical truth may be found in the excavation later.