Thursday, 4 August 2011
Silk Road Symposium: The Northern Cemetery: Epigone or Progenitor of Small River Cemetery No. 5 ?
Silk Road Symposium: The Northern Cemetery: Epigone or Progenitor of Small River Cemetery No. 5?
Although it was only excavated in 2002--2005, Small River Cemetery No. 5 (SRC5; also called Xiaohe Mudi and Ördek's Necropolis) is already well known, both to archaeologists and to the general public. A clearly related site, called simply the Northern Cemetery (Beifang Mudi), has been discovered even more recently approximately 600 km to the southwest. The resemblances to SRC5 are so close that there can be no mistaking their consanguinity, although the Northern Cemetery is thought to be slightly earlier than SRC5. The puzzle that remains to be solved, however, is how these two closely related sites, which are so far apart on the map, came to resemble each other so nearly. Since the people of both SRC5 and the Northern Cemetery seem to have entered the Tarim Basin with their cattle, ovicaprids (goats and sheep), and wheat—all of which were domesticated in Southwest Asia thousands of years earlier—a great deal more research is necessary to determine whether the people of these two sites embarked from a common staging ground and separately went their own ways, or whether one of the two groups sprang from the other. The purpose of this paper is to explore these various possibilities in a provisional fashion. Considering the fact that we do not yet have even a preliminary archaeological report for the Northern Cemetery, merely sketchy and informal descriptions by those who have been there, this is all that can be done for the present moment. Perhaps our tentative discussion will encourage a timely excavation and publication of the findings.