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Title: Social change along the Middle Yangzi river : re-configurations of late Neolithic society
Author: Priewe, Sascha
ISNI:       0000 0003 8387 0812
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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Through the case study of the Shijiahe site, Tianmen, Hubei, this thesis investigates the dynamics of enclosures along the Middle Yangzi River during the third millennium BC. During the early third millennium over a dozen of enclosures were constructed in this region, earlier than elsewhere in China during this millennium. All were abandoned and some re-settled around 2000 BC, followed by another episode of abandonment. The major theoretical paradigms dominating the field are culture history and social complexity. The thesis argues that these are insufficient to fully appreciate the actual details and dynamics of the developments at the Middle Yangzi sites. As an alternative, this thesis employs a combination of approaches. A detailed practice-based analysis of the biography of Shijiahe reveals dynamics of identity formation and changes to tradition not observed before. The techniques of enclosure construction, reasons for their construction and abandonment will also be discussed. The thesis acknowledges the central importance of religion and interaction as two essential underlying currents of prehistoric lives that, in the case of China, have largely been ignored. From this angle a series of objects, such as red pottery cups, pottery pointed-bottom vessels and jade ornaments, from Shijiahe are investigated and their religious significance established. They and the practices they were used in are also mapped according to their find spots, which show the connection of Shijiahe with regions even beyond the Middle Yangzi, such as the Yellow and Huai river regions. These interactions were probably also stimulated by religious practices. The northward connections are of particular importance, as they confirm that the Yangzi, and the giant swamp of the Yunmengze in the Jianghan Plain, were formidable barriers southwards. The usually posited direction of movements from the Yellow River into the south must be challenged on the basis of this thesis, which argues for multiple directions of interaction and transmission of objects and ideas.
Supervisor: Rawson, Jessica Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Archeology ; Asia ; Archaeology ; China ; Yangzi River ; Neolithic