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image of Journal of East Asian Archaeology

For over twenty years, scholars have regarded the cemetery at the Dawenkou site in Shandong as providing important evidence for social ranking and other aspects of social organization during the Neolithic period. Most studies have focused on reconstructing status levels within specific time periods. Recent studies of burials in different areas of the world have shown the utility of examining change over time in mortuary ritual from the perspective of both the individual site and the region. They also demonstrate that it is necessary to consider the ideology and strategies of living people mourning the deceased. This paper examines change over time in the following aspects of mortuary ritual at the Dawenkou site: the mortuary population (total number of graves, age, sex, number of bodies per grave), body disposition, orientation of graves, and variation in characteristics that may be symbolic of status differences: size of grave, kind of grave, and prestige goods. It suggests how scholars can examine change over time in mortuary ritual at Dawenkou sites from a regional perspective. This procedure could reveal insights about change over time in sociopolitical organization and ideology. Burials from the Dawenkou Culture are very important, since habitation remains are not abundant or reported in as much detail. Data from the Chinese Neolithic period can make an important contribution to theoretical and methodological debates among archaeologists in many areas about analysis of burials.

Affiliations: 1: The Field Museum, Chicago


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