Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The great walk into China's past
Unlike more familiar archaeology projects in which a single site is excavated, the scientists are using a field research method called a "regional settlement pattern survey," in which researchers tramp methodically across hundreds or even more than 1,000 square miles.

Spaced 50 yards apart, they walk abreast, scanning the ground for artifacts such as pottery shards and bits of ancient tools. Each discovery is identified and evaluated for its age, and the exact location is noted on a map.

What scientists have found in the last 13 years in Shandong is helping to reshape ideas about the first flowering of Chinese civilization, one of the world's earliest. It also shows that the so-called Dong Yi people were not barbarians at all. They lived in complex city-state societies, ruling surrounding villages that produced food and trade goods and supplied soldiers and labor to build the leaders' walled, moated cities.

regional surveys don't get a lot of press which is too bad since they are invaluable.