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When peripheries were centres: a preliminary study of the Shimao-centred polity in the loess highland, China

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 August 2018

Li Jaang*
School of History, Zhengzhou University, 100 Science Road, Zhengzhou 450001, China
Zhouyong Sun
Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, 31 Leyou Road, Xi’an 710054, China
Jing Shao
Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, 31 Leyou Road, Xi’an 710054, China
Min Li
Department of Asian Languages & Cultures and Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles, 405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA
*Author for correspondence (Email:


Chinese civilisation has long been assumed to have developed in the Central Plains in the mid to late second millennium BC. Recent archaeological discoveries at the Bronze Age site of Shimao, however, fundamentally challenge traditional understanding of ‘peripheries’ and ‘centres’, and the emergence of Chinese civilisation. This research reveals that by 2000 BC, the loess highland was home to a complex society representing the political and economic heartland of China. Significantly, it was found that Later Bronze Age core symbols associated with Central Plains civilisations were, in fact, created much earlier at Shimao. This study provides important new perspectives on narratives of state formation and the emergence of civilisation worldwide.

© Antiquity Publications Ltd, 2018 

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