Journal of World Prehistory

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 1-24

First online:

The Neolithic Ceremonial Complex at Niuheliang and Wider Hongshan Landscapes in Northeastern China

  • Hai ZhangAffiliated withSchool of Archaeology and Museology, Peking University Email author 
  • , Andrew BevanAffiliated withInstitute of Archaeology, University College London
  • , Dashun GuoAffiliated withLiaoning Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology

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This paper reviews the current evidence for settlement patterns and ceremonial activity amongst Hongshan Neolithic groups in northeastern China, with particular attention to the well-known ceremonial site at Niuheliang. We consider the location of Hongshan ceremonial sites in their wider landscape settings, arguing that such sites are a chronologically late stage of Hongshan ceremonial investment and that, within these broad complexes, the most impressive architecture and portable goods come from an especially late phase of activity. These more impressive localities were also particularly privileged places in terms of their access to major routes, specific kinds of local geology and integrated patterns of visibility. In contrast to more loosely organized Hongshan residential sites of similar size, ceremonial centres such as Niuheliang (and, within these, certain important sub-localities) clearly functioned as key mechanisms for social, political and regional stratification around roughly the mid 6th millennium BP.


Hongshan Sacred landscapes Site location models Viewsheds GIS