About the Early Taosi period (4300 to 4100 BP)

From the 9 tombs of chiefs (perhaps the kings) of the Early Taosi period, were found a number of distinctive ritual objects, such as the ceramic plate with painted dragon design, ceramic drums, drums with crocodile skin made membrane, chime stones, ceremonial wooden wares, jade and stone axes, which might indicate the emergence of a kingdom. From 1999 to 2001, archaeologists found a gigantic rammed-clay- enclosure of the Middle Taosi period (4,100 to 4,000 BP). Rectangular in form with an inner area of 280 ha, it makes the Taosi site the largest walled-town in prehistoric China. In 2002, the archaeological work at Taosi was involved into the Settlement Pattern and Social Transformation project, a sub-project of the Initial Research on Chinese Civilization project. The fieldwork has discovered the rammed clay enclosure of the Early Taosi period (4300 to 4100 BP), palace area, aristocratic cemetery, and storage area. From 2003 to 2004, archaeologists unearthed a Middle Taosi period semi-round foundation just beside southern wall of the Middle Taosi enclosure. It consists of an outer semi-ring-shaped path and a semi-round rammed- earth platform. The platform can be reconstructed as a three-level altar. The outer first level is crescent in shape and 23 to 30 m to the center of the altar. The second level in the middle is semi-ring in shape and 19 to 21 m from the center. The third level or the top of the altar is semi-round in shape and around 13 m from the center. An arch-shaped rammed earth foundation facing the east with 12 slots were discovered on the top of the altar. Certain features of the slots indicate that stone or wooden posts in rectangle or trapeziform shape might have been erected on the rammed earth foundation with slots between them. Standing in the center of the altar and watching through the slots, one can find that most of slots respectively orientate to a given point of the Chongfen Mountain to the east. Therefore, a reasonable inference is that the slots might have been intentionally constructed in for astronomic observation of the sunrise on a particular point in a given day in order to establish the local solar calendar which is crucial for the practice of agriculture at that time. In other words, the altar is an observatory. The latest discovery of the original observation point at the core of the altar further proves our previous inference. It is a round pit with one round rammed earth core and two rings of rammed earth surrounding the core. Standing in the center of the altar and watching through the slots, one can find that most of slots respectively orientate to a given point of the Chongfen Mountain to the east. Therefore, a reasonable inference is that the slots might have been intentionally constructed in for astronomic observation of the sunrise on a particular point in a given day in order to establish the local solar calendar which is crucial for the practice of agriculture at that time. In other words, the altar is an observatory.

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