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The External Connections of Sanxingdui

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image of Journal of East Asian Archaeology

An idiosyncratic Bronze Age culture, thought to be roughly contemporaneous with the Late Shang (ca. 1300–1050 BC) in the Yellow River Basin, has recently been discovered in the Chengdu Plain. The large walled settlement at the type site of Sanxingdui, Guanghan (Sichuan) and its highly developed bronze and jade manufacturing traditions indicate the presence of state-level civilization. This article attempts to clarify some of the relationships to the Sanxingdui culture to earlier, contemporaneous, and later archaeological cultures in the surrounding areas. Objects from the so-called "sacrificial pits" at Sanxingdui and at the slightly later site of Jinsha, Chengdu (Sichuan) are compared to archaeological finds from other parts of China, revealing significant connections to Neolithic and Early Bronze Age cultures along the Middle and Lower Yangzi as well as in the Central Plain, and showing that, for all its unusual features, Bronze Age Sichuan was by no means isolated in the cultural interaction sphere of mainland East Asia. Moreover, it can now be shown that Sanxingdui traits survived in later archaeological contexts, mainly in Southwest China.


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