Problems of Archaeology, Ethnography, Anthropology of
Siberia and Neighboring Territories

ISSN 2658-6193 (Online)

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2020 Volume XXVI

DOI: 10.17746/2658-6193.2020.26.467-475

УДК 903.27(513)

Petroglyphs at Cangyuan in Yunnan Province, China

Komissarov S.A., Cheremisin D.V.

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This article presents the survey of rock art sites at Cangyuan in Yunnan Province in Southwest China, including their location and height, preliminary chronology, and ethnic attribution. They were dated to the Late Bronze Age - Early Iron Age in the chronological range of 11th century BC -first century BC. Various methods were used for dating, such as radiocarbon analysis, diatom and spore-pollen analysis, glottochronology, and comparison with well-dated archaeological objects. Rock art in Cangyuan was very likely to have been created and worshiped by the ancestors of the Wapeople, who belonged to extensive Mon-Khmer language family called “Bo Pu” (meaning “all Pu people”) in the ancient times. The Wa people constitute the majority of the population living in Cangyuan-Va Autonomous County where the rock art sites were discovered. Presently, only the Wa people continue to use these monuments in their ritual practices. Rich content of the Cangyuan petroglyphs makes them a particularly valuable source on the history of the Austroasiatic peoples who inhabited vast territories of South China in the Paleometal Age. Our analysis of the content of rock paintings has shown that these images depicted the afterworld by representing some aspects of mythological legends and rituals associated with them by employing wide variety of everyday imagery. Our investigation has revealed some basic mythologems (“people’s origin from the cave,” “shooting at the sun,” “constructing the first nest-dwelling”) which made a strong impact on the spiritual life of the time. More detailed interpretation of rock paintings would be presented after their detailed inspection and recording during our planned expedition to Yunnan.


Yunnan, rock art, petrogliph dating, Wa people, semantics of images, mythologems

Chief Editor
Academician A.P. Derevyanko

Deputy Chief Editor
Academician V.I. Molodin

17, Аkademika Lavrentieva prosp., Novosibirsk, 630090, Russia
Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences

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