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"Crafting" Hongshan Communities? Household Archaeology in the Chifeng Region of Eastern Inner Mongolia

A Talk by Christian E. Peterson, Washington University in St. Louis

Thursday, May 17, 2007
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
243 Royce
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Recent settlement survey in eastern Inner Mongolia has documented roughly a dozen Hongshan period (4500–3000 BC) supra-local communities (or "chiefdoms"), each less than 5 km across and inhabited by a few hundred people, some centered on sites with monumental ceremonial architecture. Smaller-scale intensive study of surface artifacts from one such Chifeng Hongshan chiefly community, Fushanzhuang, has revealed differences in economic specialization, status, and wealth among the 30 or so Hongshan households that comprised the greater part of this central place. Economic specialization was not found to neatly co-vary with higher status at Fushanzhuang. Most higher status households were among the least specialized in terms of their activities, and nearly all were also among its least wealthy. In contrast, the most specialized households—especially those engaged in stone tool production—tended to be among the community’s wealthiest. But, only a few of these also appear to have enjoyed higher than average social standing. These findings suggest two separate but co-extant social hierarchies in Hongshan society: one based on the accumulation of wealth via economic specialization, the other based on something else—perhaps ritual authority. This latter possibility is consistent with the work of other Hongshan scholars, but is based on a very different kind of evidence. Although economic specialization contributed to Hongshan period chiefdom coalescence, and to the creation of wealth differentials in Chifeng, it does not appear to have exclusively underwritten the development of social hierarchy there. Neither, however, does ritual authority appear to have been solely responsible. To what degree these conclusions can be extended to other regions with Hongshan occupation requires the comparative study of other chiefly communities.

Christian Peterson is a job candidate for the East Asian Archaeology division of the Cotsen Institute at UCLA.

Elizabeth Klarich
(310) 794-4838

Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies, Archaeology

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