“Crafting” Hongshan Communities? Household Archeology In The Chiefing Region Of Eastern Inner Mongolia, PRC

Christian Eric Peterson

PhD Thesis 2006

The focus of this research is the Hongshan period (ca. 4500–3000 BCE) chiefly community of Fushanzhuang, centered on a group of elite burial mounds and other monuments, located in the Chifeng region of eastern Inner Mongolia. Our purpose was to determine to what degree, if any, inter-household economic specialization (as opposed to ritual specialization) underwrote the emergence of social hierarchy at Fushanzhuang, and perhaps more generally during the Hongshan period. Fieldwork began with an intensive systematic survey for, and the intensive surface artifact collection of, a large sample of the core community’s constituent households. These data, along with those collected during subsequent “micro-regional” surface survey for additional outlying settlement, were used to estimate Fushanzhuang’s duration of occupation, and its areal and demographic parameters.

From analysis of surface-collected lithic artifacts we identified five distinct economic emphases—or “specializations”—among households at Fushanzhuang. These emphases include initial tool production, tool finishing, tertiary tool production/maintenance, agricultural production, and “generalism”. Additional analyses of lithic reduction provided corroboration for these different activities. From analyses of ceramic decoration, paste, and vessel type, as well as information on personal ornaments, we inferred the presence of differences in both status and wealth accumulation between households, two dimensions of social ranking that did not correlate with one another. We also found that economic specialization did not co-vary with higher status at Fushanzhuang. Most of Fushanzhuang’s higher status households were among its least specialized in terms of their activities. Nearly all higher status households were also among its least wealthy. In contrast, its most specialized households—especially those engaged in stone tool production—tended to be among the community’s wealthiest. Only a very few of these, however, 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. Thus, although economic specialization contributed to community coalescence, and to the creation of wealth differentials at Fushanzhuang, it cannot be said to have exclusively underwritten the development of social hierarchy there.