Lichenometric dating and the nature of the excavation of the Huashan Grottoes, East China

Cheng Zhu, Li Wu, Tongxin Zhu, Feng Li, Yun Zhang

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1 Scopus citations


The present study aims to identify the timing of the Huashan Grottoes' excavations using the lichenometric dating method. A total of 96 maximum inscribed circle diameters of Rhizocarpon geographicum growing on the ancient architectures and the walls of entrances are measured in the Huashan Grottoes area of southern Anhui, East China. The results show that the period of the grottoes' excavation is estimated to be 450-335 yr BP, or the middle and late Ming Dynasty (1552-1667 AD). The lichenometric dating results are also validated by a lithologic comparison of the grottoes and the surrounding ancient architectures, as well as by the studies on the historical documents and the fragments of ancient porcelain in the grottoes. Furthermore, we infer that the excavation of the inner grottoes might have lasted till the Qing Dynasty (1636-1912 AD), because the lichens chosen for dating are mainly at the grottoes' entrances. The wider significance of this work is that it demonstrates, for the first time, lichenometric dating can be applied in the historical studies on the ancient architectures in East China with a relatively warm and humid climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2485-2492
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was jointly supported by the Project of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41171163 , 40971115 ), Scientific Research Foundation of Graduate School of Nanjing University , Project 985, Ministry of Education (Grant No. 2011CL11 ), National Key Technology R&D Program of China (Grant No. 2010BAK67B02 ), University Doctoral Foundation of China (Grant No. 20090091110036 ), Open Foundation of State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. SKLLQG0817 ), Open Testing Foundation of Large Valuable Equipments, Nanjing University Grant (No. 0422171010 ), and Priority Academic Program Development of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions . We would like to extend our thanks to the Bureau of Geology and Minerals, Bureau of Archives in Tunxi District of Huangshan City, Anhui Province for their assistance during fieldwork.


  • Huashan Grottoes
  • Lichenometric dating
  • Period and causes of excavation


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