LONGSHAN AND DAWENKOU: THE MAIN NEOLTHIC CULTURES OF EASTERN CHINA

LONGSHAN CULTURE (3000–1900 B.C.)


fluted ring

The Longshan (or Lung-shan) culture, also sometimes referred to as the Black Pottery Culture, was a late Neolithic culture in the middle and lower Yellow River valley areas of northern China, dated from about 3000 to 1900 B.C.. The first archaeological find of this culture took place at the Chengziya Archaeological Site in 1928, with the first excavations in 1930 and 1931. The culture is named after the nearby modern town of Longshan ("Dragon Mountain") in Zhangqiu, Shandong. The Longshan culture was noted for its highly polished black pottery (or egg-shell pottery). The population expanded dramatically, and many settlements had rammed earth walls. The population decreased in most areas around 2000 B.C., until the central area developed into the Bronze Age Erlitou culture. The Longshan culture was preceded by the Yangshao culture and Dawenkou culture, and followed by the Erlitou culture, Yueshi culture. The main Longshan site is Taosi. [Source: Wikipedia +]

According to the Princeton University Art Museum: “The term "Longshan culture" is a general reference to several regional culture centers. In the lower Yellow River basin in northeastern China, the Dawenkou culture was succeeded by Shandong Longshan (ca. 2400–ca. 2000 B.C.). The Middle Yellow River region saw Yangshao culture gradually being replaced by the regional cultures of Shaanxi Longshan (ca. 2300–ca. 2000 B.C.), Henan Longshan (ca. 2600–ca. 2000 B.C.), and Taosi Longshan (ca. 2500–ca. 1900 B.C.). A strong connection to Longshan pottery is also apparent in Liangzhu culture (ca. 3300–ca. 2200 B.C.) in the lower Yangzi River basin in southeast China in the production of unpainted pottery, gui tripod ewers, pierced-stem bowl vessels, and thinly–potted black and gray wares using a reduced–oxygen firing process. [Source: Princeton University Art Museum, 2004 etcweb.princeton.edu ]

Until the 1950s, black pottery was considered the principal diagnostic, and all of these sites were assigned to the Longshan culture. In the first edition of his influential survey The Archaeology of Ancient China, published in 1963, Kwang-chih Chang described the whole area as a "Longshanoid horizon", suggesting a fairly uniform culture attributed to expansion from a core area in the Central Plain. More recent discoveries have uncovered much more regional diversity than previously thought, so that many local cultures included within Chang's Longshanoid horizon are now viewed as distinct cultures, and the term "Longshan culture" is restricted to the middle and lower Yellow River valley. For example, the contemporaneous culture of the lower Yangtze area is now described as the Liangzhu culture. At the same time, researchers recognized the diversity within the Yellow River valley by distinguishing regional variants in Henan, Shanxi and Shaanxi from the Shandong or "classic" Longshan. In the fourth edition of his book (1986), Chang moved from a model centered on the Central Plain to a model of distinctive regional cultures whose development was stimulated by interaction between regions, a situation he called the "Chinese interaction sphere". Also in the 1980s, Yan Wenming proposed the term "Longshan era" to encompass cultures of the late Neolithic (3rd millennium B.C.) across the area, though he assigned the Central Plain a leading role. +

Towards the end of the 3rd millennium B.C., the population decreased sharply in most of the Longshan region and many of the larger centres were abandoned, possibly due to environmental change linked to the end of the Holocene Climatic Optimum. This was matched by the disappearance of high-quality black pottery found in ritual burials. In contrast, there was a rapid growth of population and social complexity in the basin of the Yi and Luo rivers of central Henan, culminating in the Erlitou culture.The material culture in this area shows a continuous development, through a Xinzhai phase centred on the Song Mountains immediately to the south. In the Taosi area, however, there is no such continuity between Longshan and Erlitou material culture, suggesting a collapse in that area and later expansion from the Erlitou core area.

Good Websites and Sources: Yangshao Culture Wikipedia ; Banpo site China Museums ; Liukeng Village China Vista ; Ancient TombsUniversity of Washington ; Ancient Rice National Geographic.com ; Website on Rice Cultivation in China: Ancient Chinese Rice Archeological Project, Carleton University carleton.ca/~bgordon/Rice ]

Good Websites and Sources on Early Chinese History: 1) Ancient China Life ancientchinalife.com ; 2) Ancient China for School Kids elibrary.sd71.bc.ca/subject_resources ; 3) Oriental Style ourorient.com ; 4) Chinese Text Project ctext.org ; Books: Cambridge History of Ancient China edited by Michael Loewe and Edward Shaughnessy (1999, Cambridge University Press); The Culture and Civilization of China, a massive, multi-volume series, (Yale University Press); Mysteries of Ancient China: New Discoveries from the Early Dynasties by Jessica Rawson (British Museum, 1996)

Good Chinese History Websites: 1) Chaos Group of University of Maryland chaos.umd.edu/history/toc ; 2) WWW VL: History China vlib.iue.it/history/asia ; 3) Wikipedia article on the History of China Wikipedia 4) China Knowledge; 5) Gutenberg.org e-book gutenberg.org/files ; Links in this Website: Main China Page factsanddetails.com/china (Click History)

Development of the Longshan Culture


Dr. Robert Eno of Indiana University wrote: “During the Neolithic Period, the Shandong Peninsula was almost isolated from the rest of China. A strip of low land on the western side of the peninsula was, during this period, largely covered with water and marshes, making communication with the Yellow River Valley difficult. During the centuries after the end of the Peiligang cultural phase, an outpost of that culture on the peninsula, perhaps through interaction with other cultures previously settled in Shandong or located to the south, developed into a series of evolving cultural stages. [Source: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ]

“The last of these, known as Longshan culture, seems in many ways directly ancestral to the culture of literate China. The fully developed phase of Longshan culture dates from the early part of the third millennium B.C. and endures until about 2000 B.C., the same time as the last Yangshao settlements are fading in the extreme west. Its development seems to coincide with climate changes that led to the gradual disappearance of the marshy barrier that isolated Shandong, and Longshan sites spill from the hills of Shandong into the Yellow River plain. /+/

Dr. Eno wrote: “Although the earliest Shandong ancestors of Longshan culture do not appear to have had elaborate burial practices and lavish graves, the later Shandong Neolithic cultures did, and they match the Yangshao culture in this respect. The most lavish of the Longshan graves, in fact, show a degree of wealth that suggests concentrations of power well in excess of those that may have lain behind the inequities of Yangshao society. [Source: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ]

“The cultural distinction between the Longshan and Yangshao cultures finds expression in the sharply distinct pottery styles of the two. Whereas the Yangshao artistic imagination created intricate patterns on brightly colored pottery, Longshan potters, equally skilled, created finely shaped, thinner pieces, generally black in color without significant painted decoration. Longshan potters employed a potter’s wheel, and added decorations by such devices as incisions, appliques, and cut-outs.” /+/

Longshan Pottery

A distinctive feature of the Longshan culture was the high level of skill in pottery making, including the use of pottery wheels, producing thin-walled and polished black pottery. This pottery was widespread in North China, and also found in the Yangtze River valley and as far as the southeastern coast. [Source: Wikipedia]

According to the Princeton University Art Museum: “In the Shandong peninsula up until the fifth millennium B.C., ceramic techniques and decoration were similar to other areas. While nearby white wares continued to be produced, a unique potting tradition developed in Shandong by the early fourth millennium B.C. Feather–light wares emphasizing the beauty of the vessel shape were created with extremely thin bodies, and by the third millennium B.C., painted ceramic decoration had all but disappeared. [Source: Princeton University Art Museum, 2004 etcweb.princeton.edu == ]

“Fast-speed potters' wheels appear to have been first used by Shandong potters. They allowed vessels of eggshell thinness to be produced that may be some the finest earthenware pottery ever made. The overall impression of lightness was sometimes further enhanced with pierced openwork designs. Unattainable with the use of an oxidation firing process, the thinness of the earthenware body was strengthened through the use of a reduced–oxygen firing and carbonization process that produced a completely black surface that was sometimes burnished. Delicate thin blackware stemcups, jars, and vases were found at Shandong Longshan sites but did not seem to have been produced by the Longshan cultures located in the Middle Yellow River region.” ==

Until the 1950s, black pottery was considered the principal diagnostic, and all of these sites were assigned to the Longshan culture. In the first edition of his influential survey The Archaeology of Ancient China, published in 1963, Kwang-chih Chang described the whole area as a "Longshanoid horizon", suggesting a fairly uniform culture attributed to expansion from a core area in the Central Plain. More recent discoveries have uncovered much more regional diversity than previously thought.

Books: Regina Krahl, Dawn of the Yellow Earth: Ancient Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection (New York: China Institute Gallery, 2000); Suzanne G. Valenstein, A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics, revised ed. (New York, 1975), pp. 1–19.



Longshan Black Pottery

Using the carbonization technique in the process of firing makes Black pottery. It was first found in Longshan culture, and black pottery is the most important characteristic of Longshan culture. Longshan culture appeared in B.C.2310-B.C.1810, which can be classified into Henan Longshan culture, Shan'xi Longshan culture and Shandong Longshan culture. The three all are called Longshan times. The potteries in Longshan times are gray, red and black pottery, among which black pottery is the most famous. [Source: Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences kepu.net.cn \^/ ]

Longshan black pottery can be classified into three kinds: fine soil, argillaceous and sand inclusion, among which the making of fine soil black pottery with 0.5mm-1mm in thickness of its wall is most skillful. Its surface is jet black and shining, thus it is called egg shelling black pottery. The ornamentation usually is simple. Polished and bright luster is the main decorative content, which combines organically with black color. The graceful, beautiful and charming style of black pottery is formed.\^/

Egg-shelling cup with long handle is a good example of exquisite Longshan pottery. The whole body is 19.5 centimeters high, 4.7 centimeters in diameter. Unearthed in East Haiyu of Rizhao of Shandong Province, and collected in Shandong Cultural Relics Archaeological Institute, it is an argillaceous black pottery. The mould is thin and tall. It has large flared mouth in a shape of trumpet, deep belly, round bottom in a shape of cup, one long and thin handle in the lower part, one bulged belly protrudes on the middle section of handle. Its surface is covered with vertical tiny carved holes, which are evenly and regularly scattered. The lower part of handle presents a shape of ring foot, its belly painted with cord design. The mould is novel and beautiful. It is made exquisitely and delicately. The thinnest place of cup is less than 0.5mm, which won people's great admiration. The body transmits a black luster. \^/

The Black pottery tri-pot ding (ding is an ancient cooking vessel) is another Longshan culture piece. It is 16 centimeters in height and 26.6cm in diameter and was unearthed in Liangcheng Town of Rizhao County, Shandong Province, and collected in Nanjing Museum. It is a polished argillaceous black pottery applied with black coating. It is in a shape of basin, and has open mouth, vertical wall, round bottom. One line of bulged cord design painted on the middle section of its belly. There are three legs, which are in the shape of triangle bird-head. There is one round hole on each side, just like two eyes. The body is made by wheel. The shape of utensil is complete. The mould is sedate and decent, simple and beautiful. \^/



Longshan Agriculture, Tools and Rituals

The most important crop was foxtail millet, but traces of broomcorn millet, rice and wheat have also been found. Rice grains have been found in Shandong and southern Henan, and a small rice field has been found on the Liaodong peninsula. Specialized tools for digging, harvesting and grinding grain have been recovered. [Source: Wikipedia +]

The most common source of meat was the pig. Sheep and goats were apparently domesticated in the Loess Plateau area in the 4th millennium B.C., found in western Henan by 2800 B.C., and then spread across the middle and lower Yellow River area. Dogs were also eaten, particularly in Shandong, though cattle were less important. Small-scale production of silk by raising and domesticating the silkworm in early sericulture was also known. +

Some scholars argue that the Longshan culture introduced herding animals into northern China based on the data taht indicates cattle were rare before the Longshan period but were more common along with sheep and goats after the culture became established. Cattle, sheep and goats appear to have originated from the West.”

Remains have been found in Shaanxi and southern Henan of scapulae of cattle, pigs, sheep and deer that were heated as a form of divination. Evidence of human sacrifice becomes more common in Shaanxi and the Central Plain in the late Longshan period. +

Was the Longshan Culture Warlike?

Longshan culture was agricultural, and its mix of crops was similar to that found in Yangshao culture. But in addition to the tools of agriculture, Longshan sites yield a rich harvest of spearheads and arrowheads, suggesting the prevalence of warfare. [Source: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ]

“The most distinctive trait of Longshan culture is precisely what is missing from Yangshao: settlement walls. At one Longshan site, the foundations of a city wall forty feet thick have been 8 excavated. Its foundation was laid five feet deep, and it is calculated to have risen to a height of almost twenty feet and been almost thirty feet wide at its top. It was constructed with layer upon layer of stamped earth, each thin layer being pressed down upon a previous dried layer with wooden boards so that these layers clearly survive today. The total circumference of this wall was 1680 meters, or slightly over a mile. /+/

“Although it is now known that settlement wall building in China predates the Longshan era by many centuries, and first began, as far as archaeology has yet shown, distant from Shandong, in the middle Yangzi region, no early culture expanded the practice of wall building to the scale we see at major Longshan sites. /+/

According to TimeFrame 3000-1500 B.C.: “The Longshan people seem to have adopted a more defensive posture than their predecessors. Besides the usual farm implements of flaked and polished stone, their artisans produced larger numbers of spear points and arrowheads. Around each settlement, the Longshan erected a massive barricade of stamped earth, which was probably intended as a line of defense against attack. Armed conflict seems to have been an integral part of their culture.… The Longshan methods of burial suggest that another custom followed by these people was ancestor worship. … Clan leaders emerged, men successful in battle and dominant in village affairs. Degree of influence and wealth began to separate the Longshan people into social classes, with an aristocracy holding sway over the rest. Some men fought and plundered; others raised the animals and harvested the millet.” [Source: TimeFrame 3000-1500 B.C., p. 149]



Hints of the Shang Dynasty in the Longshan Culture

Dr. Robert Eno of Indiana University wrote: “The cultural feature that is perhaps the most striking in the Longshan site excavations is the discovery of many burned animal scapulas: uninscribed oracle bones. These seem to offer very positive evidence that the Longshan people were the ancestors of the Shang, particularly in light of the shared feature of city walls. [Source: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ]

“The pattern of settlements and dating of Longshan culture indicate that this Shandong culture, which may thousands of years before have shared roots with the centrally located Yangshao culture, gradually supplanted Yangshao through a process that most likely included both conquest and simple cultural cooptation. At some sites, a layer of Yangshao settlement was immediately superseded by a Longshan layer, indicating the sort of sudden cultural displacement that would be characteristic of territorial conquest. At other sites, there is a gradual transmission, with a period of mixed Yangshao and Longshan pottery suggesting that trade and cultural diffusion was the manner in which the Longshan culture eventually supplanted the Yangshao. /+/

“Naturally, it is tempting to wonder whether we see in this process the supplanting of the historically problematic Xia Dynasty by the Shang, or perhaps even the wars between the Yellow Emperor and Chi You (though the technologically less advanced, peaceful Yangshao culture does not match well with the legends of Chi You as the inventor of weaponry). But these speculations are difficult to support from the mute evidence. Naturally, as the archaeological record becomes clearer, there will be many elements that seem to match legendary accounts (and others which do not, and which will thus draw less attention). However, it is difficult to determine what criteria we could use to assert a direct identity between the cultures whose objects were find and the superhuman personalities of China’s legendary founders. /+/

Longshan Archaeology


Eleven characters from Dinggong in Shandong

Excavations in the 1950s in Shanxian, western Henan, identified a Miaodigou II phase (3000 to 2600 B.C.) transitional between the preceding Yangshao culture and the later Henan Longshan. A minority of archaeologists have suggested that this phase, which is contemporaneous with the late Dawenkou culture in Shandong, should instead be assigned to the Yangshao culture, but most describe it as the early phase of the Henan Longshan. Some scholars argue that the late Dawenkou culture should be considered the early phase of the Shandong Longshan culture. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Miaodigou II sites are found in central and western Henan, southern Shanxi and the Wei River valley in Shaanxi. The tools and pottery found at these sites were significantly improved from those of the preceding Yangshao culture. Agriculture was intensified, and the consumption of domesticated animals (pigs, dogs, sheep and cattle) greatly increased. Similarities in ceramic styles of central Henan Miaodigou II with the late Dawenkou culture to the east and the late Qujialing culture to the south suggest trade contacts between the regions. There were also expansions from middle and late Dawenkou sites (3500-2600 B.C.) toward central Henan and northern Anhui which coincides the era of maximum marine transgression. +

The late period (2600 to 2000 B.C.) of the Longshan culture in the middle Yellow River area is contemporaneous with the classic Shandong Longshan culture. Several regional variants of the late middle Yellow River Longshan have been identified, including Wangwan III in western Henan, Hougang II in northern Henan and southern Hebei, Taosi in the Fen River basin in southern Shanxi, and several clusters on the middle reaches of the Jing River and Wei River collectively known as Kexingzhuang II or the Shaanxi Longshan. +

As the Neolithic population in China reached its peak, hierarchies of settlements developed. In physically circumscribed locations, such as the basin of the Fen River in southern Shanxi, the Yellow River in western Henan (confined by the Zhongtiao Mountains and Xiao Mountains) and the coastal Rizhao plain of southeast Shandong, a few very large (over 200 hectares) centers developed. In more open areas, such as the rest of Shandong, the Central Plain (in Henan) and the Wei River basin in Shaanxi, local centers were more numerous, smaller (generally 20 to 60 hectares) and fairly evenly spaced.Walls of rammed earth have been found in 20 towns in Shandong, 9 in the Central Plain and one (Taosi) in southern Shanxi, suggesting conflict between polities in these areas. +

Taosi and Other Longshan Sites

At 300 hectares in area, the walled site at Taosi in the Linfen Basin in southern Shanxi, is the largest Longshan settlement in the middle Yellow River area. Mortuary practices indicate a complex society with at least three social ranks. In the late Taosi period, the rammed-earth wall was destroyed, and there are indications of violence and political upheaval. At around the same time, the new large center of Fangcheng (230 hectares) was built 20 kilometers to the southeast of Taosi, on the other side of the Chong Mountains. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Sanliqiao II sites are located on both sides of the Yellow River in western Henan, southwestern Shanxi and eastern Shaanxi. There are nearly a hundred settlements belonging to this regional variant which show three level settlement hierarchy. The largest site (Xiaojiaokou, 10 kilometers southeast of modern Sanmenxia) is 240 hectares in area, whereas local centers range from 30 hectares to 70 ha. Dwelling types of Sanliqiao II culture include both aboveground and semi-subterranean type houses as well as homes horizontally dug into loess cliffs with walls frequently coated with plaster. There is noted similarity between the ceramics of this variant and that of the Kexingzhuang II variant. +

Kexingzhuang II sites are scattered across the Wei River valley in southern Shaanxi. The largest site in this area is 60 hectares, which is less than half the size of the largest Yangshao-era site in this region. A population decline is also noted during this period, which scholars attribute to migration caused by environmental changes. Out of 718 identified sites, 25 would be considered "medium sized" centers surrounded by small village settlements in three-level settlement hierarchy. +

Longshan Sites in Shandong


from Jinan

The center of Shandong is a mountainous area, including Mount Tai (1,545 meters) and other several other peaks over 1000 meters. Longshan settlements are found on the plains surrounding this massif. To the north are four evenly spaced walled centers, Chengziya, Dinggong, Tianwang and Bianxianwang (from west to east), with the largest, Chengziya, enclosing only 20 ha. A pottery sherd inscribed with 11 symbols was found at Dinggong, but scholars disagree on whether it should be dated to the Neolithic period. [Source: Wikipedia +]

The largest sites yet found in Shandong are Liangchengzhen (273 hectares) and Yaowangcheng (368 hectares). Both sites are near the southeast coast in the Rizhao area, with Yaowangcheng about 35 kilometers to the south of Liangchengzhen. Each site is surrounded by a hierarchy of economically integrated settlements, but there are relatively few settlements in the area between the two, suggesting that they were political centers of rival polities. Production of pottery, stone tools and textiles was common. There is also evidence suggesting the production of fermented beverages and prestige items made from jade and metal. Since both jade prestige items and utilitarian goods such as stone tools and pottery have been found at the sites, this suggests that they were also regional centers for production and exchange of goods. At Liangchengzhen, rice, foxtail millet, broomcorn millet and wheat were grown. Foxtail millet was the most important crop in terms of the amount grown, however it was primarily used for animal fodder. Rice was the preferred food for human consumption. +

Relative to other Longshan-era cultures, the gap between rich and poor in the Shandong Longshan was far less pronounced and there seemed to be less violence compared to other Longshan sites. The Shandong Longshan developed out of the Dawenkou culture and was succeeded by the Bronze Age Yueshi culture. +

Variants of the Longshan Culture

The Hougang II variant of Longshan culture is located in northern Henan and Southern Hubei. The sites of this Longshan subtradition are densely distributed along the rivers in this region, many of the sites being less than 1 kilometers apart. Walled sites include Hougang (10 hectares) and Mengzhuang (16 hectares). The Hougang II variant is known for having the first wells in the Yellow River area and the method they employed continued to be used by early bronze-age states in the region. New York Times- Wikipedia +]

The Wangwan III variant of the Longshan culture is located in western and central Henan province. The number of sites in this region triples from the Yangshao period, developing into multi-centered competitive systems. There is evidence of metallurgy at the Wangchenggang site, though it is possibly attributed to later layers. The Wangwan III variant is said to have given rise to the Erlitou culture, specifically a 70 hectares walled center at Xinzhai is said to lead "typologically directly to early Eriltou". +

Dawenkou Culture (4500– 2600 B.C.)


Dawenkou blade

The Dawenkou, orTa-wen-k’ou, culture is a name given by archaeologists to a group of Neolithic communities who lived primarily in Shandong, but also appeared in Anhui, Henan and Jiangsu, China. The culture existed from 4500 to 2600 B.C. (There is some disagreement about the dates). The Dawenkou culture overlapped in time with Yangshao culture, and can be considered one of the precursors of the Longshan.

The Dawenkou culture was characterized by the emergence of delicate wheel-made pots of various colours; ornaments of stone, jade, and bone; walled towns; and high-status burials involving ledges for displaying grave goods, coffin chambers, and the burial of animal teeth, pig heads, and pig jawbones. Turquoise, jade and ivory artefacts are commonly found at Dawenkou sites. The earliest examples of alligator drums appear at Dawenkou sites. Neolithic signs, perhaps related to subsequent scripts, such as those of the Shang Dynasty, have been found on Dawenkou pottery. [Source: Wikipedia, Britannica.com]

According to the Princeton University Art Museum: “Dawenkou culture takes its name from the archaeological site near the town of Dawenkouzhen in Shandong province. Dawenkou sites have been found along the eastern coast of China in the lower Yellow River valley region in Shandong and northern Jiangsu provinces, and in its later stage extends west into Henan province. Radiocarbon analysis indicates a long period of cultural activity from around 4300–2400 B.C. that is commonly divided into three phases: 1) Early Dawenkou, ca. 4300–ca. 3500 B.C. 2) Middle Dawenkou, ca. 3500–ca. 2800 B.C. and 3) Late Dawenkou, ca. 2800–ca. 2400 B.C. [Source: Princeton University Art Museum, 2004 etcweb.princeton.edu ]

The Dawenkou interacted extensively with the Yangshao culture. Scholars have also noted similarities between the Dawenkou and the Liangzhu culture as well as the related cultures of the Yantze River basin. According to some scholars, the Dawenkou culture may have a link with a pre-Austronesian language. Other researchers also note a similarity between Dawenkou inhabitants and modern Austronesian people in cultural practices such as tooth avulsion and architecture. The physical similarity of the Jiahu people to the later Dawenkou indicates that the Dawenkou might have descended from the Jiahu, following a slow migration along the middle and lower reaches of the Huai river and the Hanshui valley. Other scholars have also speculated that the Dawenkou originate in nearby regions to the south. The people of Dawenkou exhibite a primarily Sinodont dental pattern and are also physically dissimilar to the neolithic inhabitants of Hemudu, Southern China and Taiwan. [Source: Wikipedia]

Dawenkou Ceramics and Jade

According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “Five or six thousand years ago, the people of the Ta-wen-k'ou Culture living on the Shandong peninsula could make white pottery and carved jade "yüeh" axes. Four thousand years ago, the people in this area developed standardized black pottery with openwork. By combining the large vortex eye popular in jade carvings in the northeast with the divine crown insignia "chieh" from the lower valley of the Yangtze River, the Shandong Lung-shan Culture developed an elegant and profound image of the divine ancestor. They worshipped the flying bird and believed it was a messenger sent by the gods. A mask outlined by twisting lines became the predecessor of the animal-mask pattern found in the Bronze Age. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ ]

According to the Princeton University Art Museum: “The ceramics produced included earthenware vessels colored white, black, red, gray, brown, and yellow, whose types and their shapes changed considerably over the course of the Dawenkou period. The ceramics generally have a smooth finish, and often have been burnished, and they can be decorated with paint, carved, openwork, stamped, or applique designs. In addition, the selection of the clays for particular vessels was often tailored to its purpose. Carefully washed fine clays were reserved for delicate ritual wares, while clay with fine– or coarse–grained sand were often used for heavier utilitarian wares. [Source: Princeton University Art Museum, 2004 etcweb.princeton.edu ]

Dawenkou Tombs


Tombs of various sizes have been excavated at Dawenkou sites, and range from sparsely equipped small burials to large tombs with up to about 180 objects. Artifacts found in the tombs include ceramic vessels, stone tools, jade ornaments, turtleshells, extracted human teeth, dog sacrifices, and pig skulls. [Source: Princeton University Art Museum, 2004 etcweb.princeton.edu ]

Over 100 tombs have been excavated at Dawenkou. The tombs have many features in common; all are rectangular pit-graves, most are oriented with the dead persons' heads toward the east, and most of the bodies had deer teeth in their hands. Some tombs had one or two items in them, but most tombs had ten or twenty items. [Source: Patricia Buckley Ebrey, University of Washington, depts.washington.edu/chinaciv /=\]

Tomb 10 was for a woman about 50 to 55 years old and 1.6 meters tall. The tomb pit was 4.2 meters in length, 3.2 meters in width, and 0.36 meters deep. Inside the pit was a wooden chamber which contained the coffin. The woman wore a stone necklace, a jade ring, and a stone jewel on her chest. An ivory comb was by her head, a jade ax by her right thigh, a bone tube by her right knee, and a stone hammer near her left shoulder. Most of the burial items were placed on a second-level ledge outside the burial chamber. /=\

Altogether tomb 10 contained: A) 94 pottery containers and lids; B) 3 jade objects; C) 7 stone objects; D) 6 ivory objects; E) 1 bone tube; F) 2 deer teeth; G) 2 pig heads; H) 15 pig bones; I) 84 alligator bones. Pottery found in Dawenkou tombs varied greatly in shape and size. Much of Neolithic pottery is decorated with geometric designs. Although these designs appear purely abstract, some of them may be derived from forms in nature./=\

Dawenkou Life and Society

The term "chiefdom" seems to be appropriate in describe the political organization of the Dawenkou. A dominant kin group likely held sway over Dawenkou village sites, though power was most likely manifested through religious authority rather than coercion. Unlike the Beixin culture from which they descend, the people of the Dawenkou culture were noted for being engaged in violent conflict. Scholars suspect that they may have engaged in raids for land, crops, livestock and prestige goods. [Source: Wikipedia +]

The warm and wet climate of the Dawenkou area was suitable for suitable for a variety of corps, though they primarily farmed millet at most sites. Their production of millet was quite successful and storage containers have been found that could have contained up to 2000 kg of millet, once decomposition is accounted for, have been found. For some of the southern Dawenkou sites, rice was a more important crop however, especially during the late Dawenkou period. Analysis done on human remains at Dawenkou sites in southern Shandong revealed that the diet of upper-class Dawenkou individuals consisted mainly of rice, while ordinary individuals ate primarily millet. +

The Dawenkou successfully domesticated chicken, dogs, pigs and cattle, but no evidence of horse domestication was found. Pig remains are by far most abundant, accounting for about 85 percent of the total, and are thought to be the most important domesticated animal. Pig remains were also found in Dawenkou burials also highlighting their importance. Seafood was also an important staple of the Dawenkou diet. Fish and various shellfish mounds have been found in the early periods indicating that they were important food sources. Although these piles became less frequent in the later stages, seafood remained an important part of the diet. +

Dawenkou's inhabitants were the earliest practitioners of trepanation in prehistoric China. Trepanation (also known as trephination, trepanning or burr holing) is a surgical intervention where a hole is drilled, incised or scraped into the skull using simple surgical tools. A skull of a Dawenkou man dating to 3000 B.C. was found with severe head injuries which appeared to have been remedied by this primitive surgery. +

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ; Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>; University of Washington’s Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, depts.washington.edu/chinaciv /=\; National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ Library of Congress; New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; China National Tourist Office (CNTO); Xinhua; China.org; China Daily; Japan News; Times of London; National Geographic; The New Yorker; Time; Newsweek; Reuters; Associated Press; Lonely Planet Guides; Compton’s Encyclopedia; Smithsonian magazine; The Guardian; Yomiuri Shimbun; AFP; Wikipedia; BBC. Many sources are cited at the end of the facts for which they are used.

Last updated November 2016

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