Discovered in 1977, the Ruins were first excavated from May to August, 1978. An area of 1,800 sq. meters was unearthed. The remains found were 26 ruins of houses, together with many culture relics, mainly including stone tools, such as shovels, hoes, cutters, tossing tools, cutting and smashing tools, striking and smashing tools, scraping tools, grinding tools, axes, stone digging tools. Adornments such as loops, beads and bracelets as well as fictile, corns and animal bones were also found.
Archeologists’ work shows that the Ruins constitute New Stone Age sites, which date back 4000 to 5000 years. The ruins reveal that the ancient people were engaged in farming and livestock breeding, and they used rough tools as early as more than 4000 years ago.
Kanuo Ruins was named after the village Kanuo, which refers to “castle” in Tibetan language. As the legend goes, in Yuan Dynasty, Tibetans built castles to resist the Yuan General Dorda. Though they were defeated and the castles were destroyed, the name Kanuo continued to be used as the village name.
The whole ruins, except the east part (damaged at an earlier time), have been excavated. The excavation was of great importance to research the early history of Tibet and the Sino-Tibet relationship. Because of the importance of the ruins to scientific research, Kanuo Ruins was ranked the municipality-level relics site. Kanuo Ruins are the first sites of primitive society excavated in Tibet Autonomous Region, and are the highest, also the western most New Stone Age ruins unearthed in China. The primitive culture displayed in Kanuo Ruins has rich local flavor as discussed in the following part.
Firstly, it’s the architecture. Stones were used as the building materials. Unearthed were stone walls, stone road junctions, round stone tables, stone enclosure and stone cooking ranges. Wooden structure was used in the half-crypt houses, which was typically local.
Secondly, it’s the tools of production. Most of the tools found in the Ruins were forged stone implements, including some fine stone implements and grinded ones. Judging by the art of shape and structure, the forged stone implements and fine stone implements are local, which means that they were only unearthed in Kanuo Ruins. But the grinded stoneware, characterized by the lune stone knives, has also been found in other ruins.
Thirdly, all the potteries found are flat-bottomed implements made from sonim fictile, including jars, basins and bowls, which are different from the three-legged implements and loop-legged implements of the New Stone Age unearthed in the central plains area in China, but similar to some extent to those dug out in other areas in southwestern China.
Kanuo culture, rich in its social connotation, is a representative culture of the New Stone Age in Tibet.
First, Chamdo had entered the farming and grazing society. Judging from the analysis of the remained spores powder in the ruins, the tests of the planted crops and animal bones, Chamdo enjoyed a wet climate then. Dense forest (pine trees, oak trees), various ferns (tree ferns), vegetations, wormwoods, pigweeds, chinese ephedra, and cultivated crops(millets), which was the first planted crops found in Tibet, all grew there. Other things unearthed included bones of macaques, rabbits, house mice, marmots, red deer, moose, cattle, gorals, manes, wild geese, hawks, and pigs, the bred animal. It follows that the ancestors in Kanuo who lived in the present Chamdo had started the cultivation of millets and started breeding livestock (pigs). At the same time, they did hunting foxes, gorals and red deer.
Second, Kanuo Culture reflects the general situation in the gentile community in the Chamdo region.
Primitive villages were formed. The floor space of their houses were 10 to 20 sq. meters in area, a space for 4 to 5 people to reside in, which shows that family system had developed to a spouse-centered period. A 70-sq.-meter building found was a public site for the clan members to gather together, which shows that it was the gentile community period. Besides the above-mentioned farming and graving, people had begun some primitive weaving and had got the notion of beauty and abecedarian decoration arts. Fish was their taboo diet, which was a common characteristic in all the Tibetan gentile society.
The materials found in the process of the archaeological studies indicate that the gentile community in Kanuo Culture had been in kinship with the gentile community in Qugong Culture along the Yalung Tsangpu River valleys. Hence the study of Kanuo culture is significant and can be reference to the research of the primitive culture in other regions on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
Third, Kanuo ancestors had settled down. Their contribution to architecture had great impacts on the later Tibetan culture.The construction skills had reached a high level. In Kanuo Ruins there are construction sites, including houses, cooking ranges, round table-boards, roads, stone walls, round stone tables, stone enclosure, ash-pits, all of which densely built, some side by side while others superposing each other. The residents built crypts and half-crypt houses, which influenced greatly the construction in ancient Tibet. Some people even hold the opinion that the traditional Tibetan blockhouses had developed from the surface structures built by the Kanuo people. They also think that some constructions in the Ruins had the obvious characteristics of the present blockhouses: a narrow space on the ground floor and the stone fortifying structure, which still remain in the Tibetan blockhouses up to the present. The features of dense construction, clutter, superposition, joining, were the results of taking the most advantages of the plane space, which are still typical of the constructions in the Tibetan mountainous area, including Chamdo region.
Forth, the primary culture of the Qinghai-Tibet culture was in touch with the culture of other areas in China, even that of Asia and Europe.The Kanuo culture was very complicated. The micro-stoneware was of a style of unique to the grasslands in North China. Making stone implements from gravels or gravel gallets also featured the traditions of the Middle Stone Age to the early New Stone Age in south China and southeastern Asia. The shellfish found in the ruins lived in South China Sea, which indicates that the intercommunications were common among tribes far from each other, though sometimes indirectly. Kanuo culture was similar to Majiayao culture (Majiayao Ruins was excavated in QinghaiProvince, China), Banshan culture (Banshan Ruins excavated in Gansu Province), and Machang culture (Machang Ruins was also excavated in Gansu Province). This indicates that Kanuo culture was in close touch with the primitive culture of the Yellow River basin.
The Levallois Technique, which was frequently adopted to make stoneware at that time, probably had been influenced by the Paleolithic culture in central Asia, south Asia, even in Europe and the Near East. The Yellow River basin culture had influenced the Kanuo culture, which also diffused itself westward, as can be seen in the half-crypt houses and rectangle double-holed stone knives dug out in the New Stone Age sites in Kashmir region where Hindu borders with Nepal. A rectangle bone slice found in Kanuo ruins seemed exactly the same with that unearthed in the early New Stage Area site in Ganj Dareh, west Iran, proving evidence of the close intercommunications of Kanuo culture with other cultures. What’s more, there are two other ruins of primitive culture in which micro-stoneware co-existed with fictile and polished stone implements: Yanduo Ruins and Lesser Enda Ruins, both belonging to the Kanuo culture category.
The excavation of Kanuo Ruins, the first primitive village ruins found in Tibet Autonomous Region, was also the first large-scale archaeological excavation in the Tibetan region.