The Liangzhu culture (Chinese: 良渚文化; pinyin: Liángzhǔ wénhuà) (3400–2250 BC) was the last Neolithic jade culture in the Yangtze River Delta of China. The culture was highly stratified, as jade, silk, ivory and lacquer artifacts were found exclusively in elite burials, while pottery was more commonly found in the burial plots of poorer individuals. The type site at Liangzhu was discovered in Yuhang County, Zhejiang and initially excavated by Shi Xingeng in 1936. A 2007 analysis of the DNA recovered from human remains shows high frequencies of Haplogroup O1 in Liangzhu culture linking this culture to modern Austronesian and Tai-Kadai populations. The Liangzhu Culture entered its prime about 4000 ~ 5000 years ago, but suddenly disappeared from the Taihu Lake area about 4200 years ago when it reached the peak. There are almost no traces of the splendid culture created by the Liangzhu people in the following years ever found in this area. Recent research has shown that the development of human settlements was interrupted several times by rising waters. This led researchers to conclude the demise of the Liangzhu culture was brought about by extreme environmental changes such as floods, as the cultural layers are usually interrupted by muddy or marshy and sandy–gravelly layers with buried palaeotrees.
City-building and agriculture
A new discovery of ancient city wall base relics was announced by the Zhejiang provincial government on November 29, 2007. It was concluded the site was the center of the Liangzhu culture. A new Liangzhu Culture Museum was completed in 2008 and opened late in the year.
The jade from this culture is characterized by finely worked large ritual jades, commonly incised with the taotie motif. The most exemplary artefacts from the culture were its cong (cylinders). The largest cong discovered weighed 3.5 kg. Bi (discs) and Yue axes (ceremonial axes) were also found. Jade pendants were also found, designed with engraved representations of small birds, turtles and fish. Many Liangzhu jade artefacts had a white milky bone-like aspect due to its tremolite rock origin and influence of water-based fluids at the burial sites, although jade made from actinolite and serpentine were also commonly found.
A neolithic altar from the Liangzhu culture, excavated at Yaoshan in Zhejiang, demonstrates that religious structures were elaborate and made of carefully positioned piles of stones and rock walls: this indicates that religion was of considerable importance. The altar has three levels, the highest being a platform of rammed earth. Three additional platforms were paved with cobblestones. There are the remains of a stone wall. On the altar are twelve graves in two rows.
A 2007 analysis of the DNA recovered from human remains in archeological sites of prehistoric peoples along the Yangtze River shows high frequencies of Haplogroup O1 in the Liangzhu culture, linking them to Austronesian and Tai-Kadai peoples.The Liangzhu culture existed in coastal areas around the mouth of the Yangtze. Haplogroup O1 was absent in other archeological sites inland. The authors of the study suggest that this may be evidence of two different human migration routes during the peopling of Eastern Asia, one coastal and the other inland, with little genetic flow between them.
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