AAS Annual Meeting

China and Inner Asia Session 551

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Session 551: China circa 2000 BC: New Archaeological Investigations

Organizer: Tianlong Jiao, Hong Kong Maritime Museum, Hong Kong

Chair: Sascha Priewe, British Museum, United Kingdom

The time around 2000 BC is a transformative period for the understanding of ancient China. The collapse of some highly complex Neolithic societies and the rise of Bronze Age societies marked fundamental social and cultural changes in regions centring on the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers and beyond. New archaeological investigations over the past decade have greatly enhanced the understanding of this critical period of ancient China. This panel examines the new archaeological evidence and its implications for the study of early China.

Toward a new understanding of the formation of Chinese civilizations
Wei Wang, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China

The study of the beginning of early states and the formation of civilizations of ancient China has received unprecedented supports from the government over the past decade. Using a multidisciplinary approach, the research team has conducted a series of investigations at major sites in both the Yellow River and the Yangtze River regions. The paper presents the new discoveries and their implications for understanding the formation of Chinese civilizations.

Making the Most of Hongshan Period Archaeological Research: Past, Present, and Future Directions
Christian Peterson, University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA

Northeast China’s Hongshan period (4500–3000 BC) supra-local communities are among of the world’s earliest complex social formations, best known for their jade-yielding burials and ceremonial architecture. This paper discusses formative archaeological discoveries and transformative theoretical developments in Hongshan period research since the 1930s, with a particular emphasis on the mid-1980s through today. It then presents frameworks for making Hongshan period research more relevant to an increased understanding of Chinese prehistory, as well as to the construction and evaluation of globally comparative models of the emergence and development of early complex societies.

Exploring the earliest state of China: new archaeological evidence from Taosi
Nu He, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China

Recent archaeological investigations at the Taosi site in Xiangfen County, Shanxi Province, have found new evidence to study the early state of China. The presence of walled enclosures, palace structures, elite tombs, altar-observatory and ritual jades suggests Taosi was a state-level society. This presentation discusses the new archaeological finds and explores their significance in the study of the beginning of state in ancient China.

The Late Neolithic Middle Yangzi: Temporalities and Interactions at Shijiahe
Sascha Priewe, British Museum, United Kingdom

The Shijiahe site in Hubei province is one of the largest enclosed sites in southern China and flourished during the 3rd millennium BC. The enclosure, consisting of a bank and ditch, is usually considered the product of a highly evolved society. Not much attention has been paid to how the social practices that occurred at the site impacted upon it. Instead of regarding the enclosure as static and never changing, I will show how it was in flux and kept constantly shifting in significance and meaning. These developments are further related to long-distance exchanges and interactions, which can be observed in relation to religious practices throughout much of the 3rd millennium, including the site’s abandonment around 2000 BC.

Social changes in the late Neolithic Yangtze Delta: the fall of Liangzhu and the rise of Guangfulin
Tianlong Jiao, Hong Kong Maritime Museum, Hong Kong

Newly excavated materials in the Yangtze River delta demonstrate that population migrations had a great impacts upon the dissolving process of the Liangzhu Culture (ca. 5200-4300 BP). The intrusive Guangfulin culture from the north was likely responsible for the final collapse of the Liangzhu societies. This new finding challenges the orthodox perspectives which view the collapse of Liangzhu either as a result of an inevitable internal social process or external natural disasters.

New archaeological investigations of the early Bronze Age of southeast China
Chunming Wu, Xiamen University, People's Republic of China

The beginning of Bronze Age in southeast China was marked by profound changes of material cultures, including the appearance of unique style bronze artifacts, proto-porcelains and new styles of pottery. These changes carry profound implications for understanding social complexity, population dynamics and exchange networks in the region. On the basis of the newly excavated materials in Fujian Province, this presentation explores the process and dynamics of the cultural changes of the early Bronze Age societies in southeast China.

Linking the Rivers, Hills and the Seas – Interregional contacts and changes in late Neolithic southern China (2500 – 1500 B.C.)
Yi Chen, University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Interregional contacts have been important in human history. Communication between areas, cultures and peoples have brought about the transmission of technologies, products and ideas, movements of populations, and eventually led to transformations of societies and relations between societies. Archaeological evidence indicates interregional contacts between societies in late Neolithic southern China and suggests a widespread exchange network, which could even have stretched into Southeast Asia. This paper examines such evidence and its implications for the changes in southern societies, and suggests that long-existing interregional communication has set in train further social development in the south and response to the north in the early Bronze Age.