Sources of Data on Social and Economic Change during the Late Neolithic Period and Early Bronze Age
There are two primary sources of data for understanding the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age societies of northern China. The early Bronze Age, Shang dynastic period (c. 1600–1046 B.C., Qiu and Cai 2001), is the first period for which a writing system is known. Most of the written records are inscriptions carved on cattle bone and turtle shells, referred to as oracle bone inscriptions. Another important medium for writing is inscriptions on bronze vessels. No written records from the immediately preceding Xia dynasty (represented by the Erlitou culture, c. 1900–1500 B.c.) have been discovered. The other primary source of data for the early Bronze Age is settlement sites and burials. For the entire late Neolithic period, which lacks written records, researchers must rely exclusively on archaeological data. This study also employs later historical texts from China to make proposals about the nature of social and economic organization during the late Neolithic period and early Bronze Age.
KeywordsNorth China Plain Craft Production Yellow River Valley Descent Group Prestige Good
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