Sunday, 11 May 2014

Street remains found at Upper-Capital site of Liao Dynasty

The Upper-Capital site of Liao Dynasty is located at Lindong town, Bairin Left Banner in Inner Mongolia. Covering an area of 5 square km, it was built into a dual city with a ‘日’ shape which is consisted of the imperial city in the north and a separate city for Han people to the south. The imperial city wall is nearly rectangular in the plan of which the preservation is relatively good despite that one of the four gates (the southern one) seemed to be destructed in later periods. The palace is situated to the north middle of the imperial city on the central axis. Coding as Ave 1, archaeologists detected a street running north-south in the central eastern part of the imperial city, which seemed to have served as a main avenue connecting the south wall of imperial city and the palace area.

overview of the site

Remains of house foundation F20 
During July to October 2013, the excavation was conducted under the cooperation of the Archaeological Institute of CASS and the Archaeological Institute of Inner Mongolia Province. It covers an area of 500 square meters and aims to highlight the stratigraphic profile of the south imperial city and its spatial distribution of the street and surrounding buildings. 
15 layers of features associated with Ave 1 (L1-L15), 30 structures along the street (F1-F30) and other features such as drains and ash pits were identified in all. Large amounts of relics were recovered including architectural materials such as bricks, tiles, tile-ends, and drip tile, as well as pottery samples, stone and bone tools, metal tools, coins, animal bones and so forth. According to the stratigraphy, five phases can be identified. 

Remains of house foundation F30
L14, L15 and F30 feature Phase 1, the earliest phase of the street utilization. During this phase, the street was approximately 17/18m-wide. A layer of grooved tiles was excavated near the building F30. 
During Phase 2, the width of the street was likely to be 12.6-12.8m. Paving bricks covered the west part of L13. Architectural structures were discovered along both sides of L12. L12 along with L13 and F22 are the typical features in this period.
In the third phase, change of the street width is evident with the narrowest being 8m at L9. Drainages were built along either one side or both sides of the street. The gap area between the street and the buildings was made of sandstone and earth layer, being 4.5-4.7m in width. Within F20 (the house remains which is located to the west of L9), paved bricks and rammed earth foundation were recovered. L8-L11 and F20 are the typical features in this period.
L5-L7 and JZ1 characterize the fourth phase. The street was about 7.3-7.6m wide with drainages on one side or both sides. L7, paved with sandstones, provided the concrete surface upon which the road of Ave 1 was paved. Comprised of an earth-rammed platform, ‘baoshi’ (encircled with stone) and ground architectural remains, JZ1 is a bulk architectural structure facing south. This structure is 26.3m in width (north-south) and 11.8m in length (east-west). Concerning the increasing height of its eastern part of the road, JZ1 might have experienced two construction events at least. Several lines of evidences show that wooden structures appeared to be built upon the earth-rammed platform, and partly paved-brick and pedestal remained. Many tiles, tile-ends, drip tiles and other architectural parts were excavated within this context.

Street remains Ave 1
The preservation of the street used in Phase 5 is relatively poor. Merely L1-L4, F1and F2 were discovered. JZ1 might have been abandoned at that time. Structures facing to the street were rebuilt on the debris of previous phases, however, on a smaller scale and densely distributed. Brick-structured hearths, flues and stove surfaces were discovered within the houses.

unearthed architectural parts
It can be safely concluded that all these five phases date back to the Liao, Jin and Yuan Dynasties separately based on the stratigraphy and changing styles of the findings. We speculate that the street along with the buildings were initially constructed in the Liao Dynasty and experienced several episodes of refurnishing and rebuilding during the Jin Dynasty preceding its final abandon in the Yuan Dynasty. Scarce remains were found from the Liao layers while the assemblages and architectural remains during the Jing Dynasty are large both in number and scale. Therefore, it is most likely that this street played a major role during the Jing Dynasty.

unearthed bones
The discovery of the main avenue in the site moves our understanding towards a detailed interaction between the street and its relating structures during the Liao Dynasty, thus underpinning the spatial design of the capital as well as its changes corresponding to political alterations. 
In terms of the temporal pattern, the cultural sequence has been established based on the architectural and pottery assemblages, opening a window for further studies. 
Wealth animal remains were presented in the deposits from all the phases, most of which bear traces of surface modification such as polishing and cutting marks. From this point of view, this faunal assemblage proves some possibilities to demonstrate the function and nature of those structures along the street.    (Translator: Dong Ningning)

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