From March 2015, a joint archaeology team formed by Hubei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology and Museum of Huanggang City conducted the full-scale field archaeological survey, exploration, and test excavations to the Yuwangcheng city Site, which situated in Huangzhou district, Huanggang city, Hubei province. The plane of the city site is rectangular from the south to the north, with a length of 1691 meters from the south to the north and a width of 654 meters from the east to the west. The perimeter of the city wall is 4446 meters. The total area of the city is around 1,100,000 square meters.
The distribution map that showed the remains in Yuwangcheng
The northwest, southwest, and southeast corners of the city are in right angles. Both of the southwest corner and southeast corner of the city wall are connected with a large rammed-earth platform foundation. The platform foundation at the southwest corner has a larger size, and it aligned north to south, measured 20-30 meters in length and 15 meters in width. The platform foundation at the southeast corner is slightly smaller, with a length of around 15-20 meters and a width of 10 meters. On the other hand, the ground level outside the northwest corner is relatively high, which used to be a rammed-earth platform foundation but no longer exist. The rammed-earth platform foundations might be related to military facilities such as beacon towers or watchtowers.
According to the survey, the middle part of the east, the south and the west walls, and the northeast corner have a gap, which would be the remains of the city gates. The east gate is around 20 meters wide. A brown yellow earth rammed gate pier was found at both of the south side and the north side of the gateway. The gate pier is 22.5 meters long and 4 meters wide. The gate is divided by the gate piers into three gateways, with the width of 8 meters in the middle and the width of 4 meters for each of the two sides.
Four parts of broken roads were uncovered in the city, with one of them lead from the south gate into the city with damaged length around 44 meters, a width of 5 meters, and a depth of 0.1-0.3 meters. The soil of the road is charcoal grey, with hard and tough texture.
According to the survey, there are 17 rammed-earth platforms of building foundations, where 14 of them are inside the city and 3 are outside the city. Most of the platforms are L-shaped, some of them are square, and only one of them is in character ‘凸’ shape. The area of the largest platform is about 3508 square meters, which is located inside the southeast part of the city. Based on the distribution of the platforms, all of the large ones are distributed in the south part and some of them are surrounded by the ditches. The platforms are connected by roads. Thus the large platforms might be the remains such as palace or government offices. A large area of burnt soil was discovered in the northeast part of the city. Large amount of wells were also found beside the west and south part of the burnt soil remains. Therefore, the northeast part of the city could be the workshop area. The scale of the platforms in the northwest part of the city are relatively small but densely distributed, therefore could be the residential area. According to the distribution of the site, the layout and the function division inside Yuwangcheng city are comparatively clear.
Many settlement remains dating back to Eastern Zhou and Han dynasties were found around the city site. These settlement remains are mainly distributed in the east, south, and north parts outside the city, where the south part is the most densely distributed. These settlements and the city are connected as a whole. There are 24 cemeteries found in the north, east, and south parts outside the city. These cemeteries might belong to the residents of Yuwangcheng city.
The exploratory trench excavated at the east city wall is from the east to the west with the length around 35 meters from the east to the west and the width around 3 meters from the south to the north. It crosses the city wall, the moat outside the city, and the cultural layers inside the city. The stratum inside the trench is divided into 13 stratigraphic layers. The stratigraphic sequence and the unearthed artifacts have provided strong evidence for figuring out the dating problem of the city. The remained Eastern Zhou city wall was rammed by brown, yellow, and grey soils. Its cross section is in the shape of a wide trapezoid. The remained city wall is the lower part of the original wall, with the width of 4.4 – 25 meters and the height of 3.8 – 5.25 meters. According to the classification of the unearthed artifacts, it is suggested that Yuwangcheng city was built during the late part of the middle Spring and Autumn period. On the other hand, the artifacts found from the bottom layer of the trench are dated to the late phase of the middle Spring and Autumn period, which corresponds to the building date of the city.
Yueangcheng city was abandoned during the late Warring States period. At the beginning of the Western Han Dynasty, the city wall that was built during the late part of the middle Spring and Autumn period, were restored and heightened and hence become the city wall throughout the Western Han Dynasty. The artifacts uncovered from the Western Han cultural layer are dated from the early Western Han Dynasty to the late Western Han Dynasty, which has proved that the city site was abandoned at the late Western Han Dynasty.
13 ash pits, 2 ditches, and 2 wells were uncovered from the six 5×5 trial units inside the city. Most artifacts found inside the city are potteries, only a few are bronze wares, iron wares, jade objects, and stone tools. The potteries are divided into living utensils, production tools, and building materials. The types of living utensils found include li
(cooking tripod with hollow legs), Yan
(lower part of the steaming vessel), zeng
(upper part of the steaming vessel), tripod-ding (cooking vessel), basin , yu
(liquid container), plate, dou
(high plate), mou
(cooking pot), urn, large jar, liang
(measuring vessel), and lid. The types of building materials found include semi-cylindrical tile, plain tile, eaves tile, paving brick, walling crib, water pipe, and components. The production tools found are clay pattern tools and spindle whorls. The bronze wares found are sharpeners and sword grips. The type of jade object found is bi disk (piece of jade with a hole in the center). And the types of stone tools found are pestle and grind stone.
In recent years, more than 300 tombs of the Spring and Autum period, the Warring States period, and the Eastern and Western Han dynasties were uncovered around Yuwangcheng city, which have also provided strong evidence to the dating of build, use, and abandon of the city site. Therefore, Yuwangcheng city has experienced two major historical stages, one is from the late phase of the middle Spring and Autum period to the late Warring States period, the other one is from the early Western Han Dynasty to the late Western Han Dynasty. The possible chronological span of the city is between 550 BC and 8 AD. The existing archaeological materials show that Yuwangcheng is a large-scale city site that situated in the middle and lower reaches of Yangtze River and dated from the middle phase of the Spring and Autumn period through to the Warring States period and the Western Han dynasty. (Translator: Li Xuelei)