The planting of millet 7,000 years ago from now in North China was mainly found in the areas of the upper stream of Xiliao River and those of the midstream and downstream of the Yellow River, corresponding to the Northern Culture Region, Central Culture Region and Eastern Culture Region put forward by Mr. Su Bingqi. At the early stage, the planting of millet was generally accompanied by settlement (semi- settlement) behavior. The lifestyle of settlement was an important sign for the transition of North China from the end of Paleolithic Age to the beginning of the Neolithic Age. It was directly related to the origin of dry farming in the northern region of China and exerted an important influence on the origin and development of Chinese civilization.
In recent years, some millet remains of the early Neolithic Age were newly discovered at Xinglong Site of Kangbao County of Hebei Province on Bashang Grasslands. This area is located north of the Great Wall and on the southern edge of Mongolian Plateau, with the west of Liaoning—Chifeng to its east and Nihewan Basin to its south. As an important culture area for the transition from the Paleolithic Age to the Neolithic Age, it is also an important area for acclimatization of millet and the origin of dry farming in the northern region of China.
To advance the study for the origin of dry farming in the early stage in the northern region of China, NMC Institute of Archaeology and the Plant Archaeology Committee of the Society of Chinese Archaeology agreed to hold the seminar of “New Discovery of the Prehistoric Millet at Xinglong Site and Study of the Origin of Millet” in the National Museum of China on August 12, 2020. The seminar invited 13 experts and scholars from the scientific research institutions like the Institute of Archaeology of CASS, Institute of Geology and Geophysics of CAS, Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research of CAS, the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Peking University and Beijing Union University to participate in the special reports and discussion. Dai Xiangming, director of NMC Institute of Archaeology, Zhuang Lina, director of the Field Archaeology Institute, and relevant professionals from the Environment Archaeology Institute and Postdoctoral Research Station participated in the seminar.
The topics of the seminar focused on three aspects, namely the progress in the study of millet in the northern region of China 7,000 years ago; the progress in the study of the origin of millet farming in the northern region of China; and new discovery of the prehistoric millet at Xinglong Site. Four sessions of special reports were scheduled.
Associate professor Zhang Junna from Beijing Union University reported on the topic of Origin of Millet Farming in North China and Preliminary Exploration of Environmental Background of Its Early Development, providing a panoramic environmental background for the origin and early development of millet farming in North China 50,000 years ago from now. It is of great significance for us to understand the origin of agriculture and early development, acclimation and planting of millet, environmental change and adaptation of mankind as well as the appearance of early settlement.
Professor Jiang Hongen from the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences reported on the topic of Pre-historic Millet Farming in Xinjiang, combed the discoveries and studies of early millet farming in Xinjiang, and explored the strategy of our ancestors in developing agriculture in harsh environmental conditions, and the status of the crops like millet in the prehistoric agricultural economy of Xinjiang. The report provides a broader background for the cultural exchanges between the eastern region and western region represented by the introduction of millet to the western region and that of wheat to the eastern region.
Postgraduate student Jia Xiaowen from Peking University reported on the topic of Study of Stable Isotope of F3 House Site at Xinglong Site, making a thorough case study of AMS C14 dating and stable carbon and nitrogen isotope for a house site 70,000 years ago from now excavated in 2018 at Xinglong Site in Kangbao of Hebei. The report obtained comparatively important understanding of chronology of site, feeding habits of animals and mankind, and demographic structure. It presents a particularly important achievement and is a research project launched in cooperation with NMC Institute of Archaeology under the guidance of Professor Wu Xiaohong, .
Dr. Qiu Zhenwei from NMC Institute of Archaeology reported on the topic of Discovery and Study of Millet at the Early Stage: Take Xinglong Site as an Example, introducing the latest research results of Xinglong Site in paleoethnobotany, especially the excavated carbonized millet which is regarded as one of the earliest carbonized millet examples with direct dating evidence at present. The report covered the organization of the discoveries and studies on the early millet unearthed at Xinglong Site and millet at the early and middle stages in the Neolithic Age in the northern region of China, forming a comparatively systematic understanding. This part represents important initial achievements made by Dr. Qiu Zhenwei in the scientific research project of the National Museum of China titled Discovery and Study of Millet at the Early Stage of the Holocene Epoch in the Northern Region of China for the year of 2019.
After making the special reports, they entered the session of concentrative discussion. The contents of paleoethnobotany involved the theory and mechanism of the origin of agriculture, acclimation of millet, spread of crops and taphonomy; topics also contained the research methods for metagenome of environmental DNA, dating and sample preparation technology, biomarker, counting of phytolith and plant stable isotope analysis; scientific release of research materials and data were discussed as well. They compared the origin of millet and early millet farming in the north with the acclimation of rice and origin of rice farming in the south. Their further discussion involved the environment of the site, resource domain, demographic structure and population density, extending to the issues of adaptation of mankind and flow of population from plant remains. At last, the discussion went so far as to explore the relation between the settlement structure , vicissitudes of culture and agricultural model, structure of crops, and the relation between climate, environment, geographical landform, the origin and development of agriculture and differences of archaeology between the south and north.
In addition, the scholars also put forward some scientific issues the academia should pay close attention to, e.g. re-perception of climate reconstruction during the Holocene Megathermal, whether the origin of millet farming is single or pluralistic, new research idea and method, etc.
Finally, researcher Zhao Zhijun expounded the necessity for further work from the transitional nature of the area where Xinglong Site is located, the particularity of archaeological studies to which Xinglong Site belongs and the importance of crops unearthed there. Professor Wu Xiaohong talked about the follow-up study of Xinglong Site from the perspective of C14 dating and stable isotope analysis. President Dai Xiangming expressed the gratitude to all the experts and scholars who support and care for the work of Xinglong Site on behalf of NMC Institute of Archaeology, and high recognition for the achievements made by collaborated research efforts; he said he will continue to support the follow-up work with a more open attitude.