HEFEI, March 22 (Xinhua) -- Chinese archaeologists claim that pottery utensils dating back 7,000 years ago which bear inscriptions of various symbols are probably one of the origins of Chinese characters.
They made the conclusion on the basis of several
years' study into the symbols carved on over 600 pottery ware items unearthed
from the New Stone Age site in Shuangdun village, Xiaobengbu town of Bengbu, a
city in East China's Anhui Province.
The symbols include rivers, animals and plants, and
activities such as hunting, fishing and arable farming, as well as symbols
recording events, said Han Xuhang, a research fellow with the Anhui Provincial
Archaeological Research Institute.
The pottery mainly includes bowls and cups, with all
the symbols carved on the bottom or on hidden parts of the pottery. "It is
obvious that these symbols were not used to decorate the pottery utensils but
had a special meaning and purpose," said Xu Dali, an associate research fellow
with the Bengbu City Museum.
Xu said the symbols are carved in pairs and also in
groups, which express comparatively complete meanings and show the
characteristics of sentences and paragraphs.
Similar symbols were also discovered in other places
nearby, which shows that these symbols were recognized and used in a certain
region, said Xu.
Many of the symbols are similar to the inscriptions
on bones or tortoise shells of the Shang Dynasty (1766-1122 BC) and many are
still conserved in characters used by ethnic groups today, said Xu.
Li Boqian, head of the ancient civilization research
center of Beijing University, said that the origin of characters has a long
process of development.
The period from 9,000 years to 4,000 years ago was
the origin and initial development period of Chinese characters, and the period
from 4,000 years ago to 221 BC was the time when characters developed towards
maturity, which was followed by a period of wide use of characters after
Qinshihuang, China's first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (211-207 BC).
These notional symbols are an important link in the
development of Chinese characters and could be one of the origins of Chinese
characters, said Li.
The discovery of so many symbols at Shuangdun ruins
is rarely seen in the research into ancient civilizations and "it gives us great
hope of finding more important archaeological discoveries," said Li Xueqin,
chairman of the China Pre-Qin Dynasty Historiography Society.
The discovery not only provides important clues about
the origin of Chinese characters, but also an opportunity to review the existing
theory on the origin of Chinese characters, said Li, who is also a professor
with Qinghua University.
Covering 12,000 sq m, the Shuangdun ruins were first
discovered in 1985 and excavations were made on an area of 375 square meters
from 1986 to 1992. The ruins were regarded as the earliest New Stone Age site in
the area along the middle reaches of the Huaihe River, the third largest river
The Yellow River and the Yangtze River valleys have
been regarded as the cradles of Chinese civilization. Discovery of the Shuangdun
ruins shows that the Huaihe River valley also has its own independent cultural
system and is one of the birthplaces of Chinese civilization, Li said. Enditem