Flotation machines: China

An  archaeobotanical flotation photo gallery

Professor Zhao Zhijun (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) demonstrates a flotation machine of his own design at Tonglin site, in Shandong province, China, where Peking University held a field methods training course for professional archaeologists (2003).

Dr. Zhao is most responsible for encouraging the development of archaeobotany in China by promoting flotation as part of excavations, and by promoting the use of a standard flotation machine design. See this feature story from the  Chinese People's Daily online [in English], Jan. 2005.

This flotation machine is modified from the SMAP type machine originally designed by Patty Jo Watson in America, which was brought to East Asia by Professor Gary Crawford (Univ. of Toronto), first to Japan in the 1970s, and was then introduced to China through American-Chinese fieldwork collaborations in the later 1980s and 1990s. (Prof. Crawford provides an account of his adventures in East Asian flotation and archaeobotany on his website) .  In parallel, Xiong Haitang observed flotation in Japan while visiting Nagoya University, and published a Chinese account of the technique and its usefulness for environmental remains in general (includung fish bones and molluscs) in the journal Nongye Kaogu in 1989. This method was then applied be the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences excavations at Lilou, Henan in 1992. Nevertheless, it is more recent and sustained efforts of Dr. Zhao that have spread archaeobotanical research more widely in China.


 Above, flotation at Neolithic Xinglongou, Inner Mongolia. One of the earliest sites with domesticated millets in China (ca. 6000 BC). The same machine type (provided by Zhao) is in use.

This picture, of a diminutive and portable, flotation machines (based on an Ankara-like design) was provided by Loukas Barton, shown using it for flotation as part of recent archaeological work at Dadiwan (which includes new evidence on early millet cultivation). Dr. Barton reports that he  made it  with "the guys from Lanzhou University; this drew water from the cistern atop the house, which drew water from a well by electric pump. Its external pumping required a lot of duct tape, and i would be hesitant to push 100s of liters of dirt through it. other than that it works quite well." [Photo by Chris Morgan, Shao Dian village, 2006 (during excavations at Dadiwan).