Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 699–711 | Cite as

Investigation of the diverse plant uses at the South Aisikexiaer Cemetery (~ 2700–2400 years bp) in the Hami Basin of Xinjiang, Northwest China

  • Guilin Zhang
  • Yongqiang Wang
  • Michael Spate
  • Shuzhi Wang
  • Hongen JiangEmail author
Original Paper


The South Aisikexiaer Cemetery, located in the Hami Basin of Xinjiang, northwest China, has been dated to around 2700 to 2400 bp. The arid conditions of the Hami region allow for the preservation through desiccation of a large amount of botanical materials, with 14 different taxa identified by systematic archaeobotanical study. Naked barley (Hordeum vulgare var. coeleste) was the only cereal type identified. Barley may be cultivated in the oases around the cemetery and threshed to obtain grains for foodstuff. Broken stems of barley were by-products of threshing and possibly consumed as binder for wall construction. Woody plants mainly include Populus euphratica, Tamarix sp. and Salix sp. Timbers of P. euphratica were the most important wooden materials for local inhabitants, used in the construction of tombs and fabrication of wooden articles. The remaining wild herbaceous plants are dominated by Aristida grandiglumis. Culms of A. grandiglumis may have been specially collected for livestock fodder and used as filling material of roof thatch on tomb. Stems of Phragmites australis were used in mat weaving. The diversity of plant remains, and their uses give insight into the adaptive strategies of the South Aisikexiaer population to arid environment in the Hami Basin during the early Iron Age.


Naked barley Ancient agriculture Plant use Yanbulake Culture Early Iron Age 


Funding information

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41672171), “Special support fund for young scientists of scientific history studies” program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Y529027EA2), and fund from University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (Y65201YY00).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Guilin Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yongqiang Wang
    • 3
  • Michael Spate
    • 4
  • Shuzhi Wang
    • 5
  • Hongen Jiang
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, School of HumanitiesUniversity of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Laboratory of Human Evolution, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and PaleoanthropologyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Xinjiang Institute of ArchaeologyUrumchiChina
  4. 4.Centre for Classical and Near Eastern StudiesThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  5. 5.Institute of ArchaeologyChinese Academy of Social SciencesBeijingChina

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