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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

This research has been funded both by ICCHA (International Centre for Chinese Heritage and Archaeology, based at University College London) and the Project ‘Formation and Early Development of Chinese Civilization from 3500 to 1500 BC: Research on Social Structure Reflected by Settlement Patterns’. We are also grateful to Dr. Xinwei Li for providing us with survey data from Sijiazi, and the three anonymous reviewers for their careful readings and valuable advice.

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Zhang, H., Bevan, A. & Guo, D. The Neolithic Ceremonial Complex at Niuheliang and Wider Hongshan Landscapes in Northeastern China. J World Prehist 26, 1–24 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10963-013-9062-9

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Keywords

  • Hongshan
  • Sacred landscapes
  • Site location models
  • Viewsheds
  • GIS