Skip to main content

Sanzuodian: the structure, function and social significance of the earliest stone fortified sites in China

  • Gideon Shelach (a1), Kate Raphael (a2) and Yitzhak Jaffe (a1)

The authors present new research on the Chifeng area of north-eastern China where they have been studying the remains of a society of the second millennium BC. This northern region, which saw the introduction of agriculture at the same time as the Yellow River basin experienced a brief and intensive period of fortification in the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age: natural ridges above the valleys were ringed with double stone walls and semicircular towers enclosing clusters of round houses with yards. Using large-scale survey and analysis of the structures at the key site of Sanzuodian, they place this phenomenon in its cultural and social context.

Corresponding author
*Author for correspondence (Email:
Hide All
Abrams, E.M. 1994. How the Maya built their world: energetics and ancient architecture. Austin (TX): University of Texas Press.
Abrams, E.M. & Bolland, T.W. 1999. Architectural energetics, ancient monuments, and operations management. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 6:263-91.
Arkush, E. & Stanish, C. 2005. Interpreting conflict in the ancient Andes. Current Anthropology 46(1):328.
Bagley, R.W. 1999. Shang archaeology, in Loewe, M. & Shaughnessy, E. (ed.) The Cambridge history of ancient China: 545-86. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Barbieri-Low, A. P. 2007. Artisans in early Imperial China. Seattle (WA) & London: Washington University Press.
McC Brown, B. 1987. Population estimation from floor area: a restudy of ‘Naroll's Constant’. Behavior Science Research 22(1-4):149.
Casselberry, S.E. 1974. Further refinement of formulae for determining population from floor area. World Archaeology 6:117-22.
Chifeng International Collaborative Archaeological Project (ed.). 2003. Regional archaeology in eastern Inner Mongolia: a methodological exploration. Beijing: Kexue chubanshe.
Drennan, R.D., Peterson, C.E., Indrisano, G.G., Teng, M., Shelach, G., Zhu, Y., Linduff, K.M. & Guo, Z. 2003. Approaches to regional demographic reconstruction, in Chifeng International Collaborative Archaeological Project (ed.) Regional archaeology in eastern Inner Mongolia: a methodological exploration: 152-65. Beijing: Kexue chubanshe.
Erasmus, C. 1965. Monument building: some field experiments. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 21:277301.
Evans, R.K. & Rasson, J.A. 1984. Ex Balcanis Lux? Recent developments in Neolithic and Chalcolithic research in south-east Europe. American Antiquity 49(4):713-41.
Finkelstein, I. 1992. Middle Bronze Age ‘fortifications’: a reflection of social organization and political formations. Tel Aviv 19:201220.
Flad, R.K. 2001. Ritual or structure? Analysis of burial elaboration at Dadianzi, Inner Mongolia. Journal of East Asian Archaeology 3:2352.
Flannery, K.V. 1972. The cultural evolution of civilizations. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 3:339426.
Flannery, K.V. 2002. The origins of the village revisited: from nuclear to extended households. American Antiquity 67:417-33.
Fuller, D.Q., Harvey, E. & Qin, L. 2007. Presumed domestication? Evidence for wild rice cultivation and domestication in the fifth millennium BC of the lower Yangtze Region. Antiquity 81:316-31.
Guo, Dashun. 1995a. Hongshan and related cultures, in Nelson, S. (ed.) The archaeology of northeast China: 2164. London & New York: Routledge.
Guo, Dashun. 1995b. Lower Xiajiadian culture, in Nelson, S. (ed.) The archaeology of northeast China: 147-81. London & New York: Routledge.
Guo, Dashun. 1995b. Lower Xiajiadian culture, in Nelson, S. (ed.) The archaeology of northeast China: 147-81. London & New York: Routledge.
Henry, D.O., White, J.J., Beaver, J., Kadowaki, S., Nowell, A., Cordova, C., Dean, R., Ekstrom, H., Mccorriston, J. & Scott-Cummings, L. 2003. The early Neolithic site of Ayn Abū Nukhayla, southern Jordan. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 330:130.
Kolb, C.C. 1985. Demographic estimations in archaeology: contributions from ethnoarchaeology on Mesoamerican peasants. Current Anthropology 26:581–99.
Linduff, K., Drennan, R. & Shelach, G. 2004. Early complex societies in NE China: The Chifeng International Collaborative Archaeological Research Project. Journal of Field Archaeology 29:4573.
Liaoning Sheng Wenwu Kaogu Yanjiusuo (Institute for Archaeology and Cultural Relics of Liaoning Province). 2001. Liaoning beipiaoshi kangjiatun chengzhi fajue jianbao [Preliminary report on the excavations at the Kangjiatun fortified site, Beipiao city, Liaoning]. Kaogu 8:3144.
Naroll, R. 1962. Floor area and settlement population. American Antiquity 27:587–9.
Neimenggu Wenwu Kaogu Yanjiusuo [Inner Mongolia Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology]. 2000. Daihai Kaogu, Volume 1: Laohushan wenhua yizhi fajue baogao [Daihai Archaeology, Volume 1: excavation report of the Laohushan culture site]. Beijing: Kexue Chubanshe.
Neimenggu Wenwu Kaogu Yanjiusuo 2007. Neimenggu Chifeng shi Sanzuodian Xiajiadian xiaceng wenhua shicheng yizhi [Sanzuodian: a site with stone fortifications from the Lower Xiajiadian period, in Chifeng, Inner Mongolia]. Kaogu 7:1727.
Peltenburg, E. 2004. Social space in early sedentary communities of Southwest Asia and Cyprus, in Peltenburg, E. & Wasse, A. (ed.) Neolithic revolution: new perspectives on Southwest Asia in the light of recent discoveries in Cyprus: 7189. Oxford: Oxbow.
Plog, F. 1990. Agriculture, sedentism, and environment in the evolution of political systems, in Upham, S. (ed.) The evolution of political systems: sociopolitics in small-scale sedentary societies: 177-99. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press.
Shelach, G. 1998. A settlement pattern study in northeast China: results and insights on potential contributions of Western theory to Chinese archaeology. Antiquity 72:114–27.
Shelach, G. 1999. Leadership strategies, economic activity, and interregional interaction: social complexity in northeast China. New York: Plenum.
Shelach, G. 2000. The earliest Neolithic cultures of northeast China: recent discoveries and new perspectives on the beginning of agriculture. Journal of World Prehistory 14:363413.
Shelach, G. 2001. Apples and oranges? A cross-cultural comparison of burial data from northeast China. Journal of East Asian Archaeology 3:5390.
Shelach, G. 2006. Economic adaptation, community structure, and sharing strategies of households at early sedentary sites in northeast China. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 25:318–45.
Shelach, G. 2009. Violence on the frontiers? Sources of power and socio-political change at the easternmost parts of the Eurasian steppes during the early first millennium BCE, in Hanks, B. & Linduff, K. (ed.) Social complexity in prehistoric Eurasia: 241-71. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Shi, X. 1986. Qian Yangshao wenhua de faxian ji qi yiyi [The discovery of pre-Yangshao cultures and their meaning], in Zhongguo kaoguxue yanjiu, Volume 2:123. Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe.
Thorp, R.L. 2006. China in the Early Bronze Age: Shang civilization. Philadelphia (PA): University of Pennsylvania Press.
Tian, G. 1993. Neimenggu changcheng didai zhu kaoguxue wenhua yu linjing tongqi wenhua xianghu yingxiang guilü de yanjiu [Research on the mutual influence among cultures of the Great Wall region of Inner Mongolia and adjacent areas]. Neimenggu wenwu kaogu 1-2: 1622.
Tong, Z. 1957. Chifeng Dongbajia shicheng zhi kancha ji [A report of survey at the Chifeng Dongbajia stone wall site). Kaogu tongxun 6:230–37.
Whalen, M.E. 1988. House and household in formative Oaxaca, in Wilk, R.R. & Ashmore, W. (ed.) Household and community in the Mesoamerican past: case studies in the Maya area and Oaxaca: 249-72. Albuquerque (NM): University of New Mexico Press.
Xu, G. 1986. Chifeng Yingjinhe Yinhe liuyu de shicheng yizhi [Stone wall sites of the Chifeng Yingjin and Yin river basins]. Zhongguo kaoguxue yanjiu: 8293.
Xu, H. 2000. Xian Qin chengshi kaoguxue [The archaeology of pre-Qin cities]. Beijing: Yanshan chubanshe.
Yan, W. 1992. Origins of agriculture and animal husbandry in China, in Aikens, M.C. & Rhee, S.N. (ed.) Pacific Northeast Asia in prehistory: 113-23. Pullman (WA): Washington State University Press.
Yuan, Z. 1983. Cong Qinshihuang ling de kaogu ziliao kan Qin wangchao de Yaoyi [Addressing the corvée labour of the Qin from the archaeological data of the mausoleum of the First Emperor of Qin]. Zhongguo nongming zhanzheng shi yanjiu 3:4255.
Zhao, Z. 2004. Cong Xinglonggou yizhi fuxuan jieguo tan Zhongguo beifang zaozuo nongye qiyuan wenti [Addressing the origins of agriculture in north China based on the results of flotation from the Xinglonggou site]. Dongya guwu 12:188–99.
Zhongguo Shehui Kexueyuan Kaogu Yanjiusuo (Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences). 1996. Dadianzi: Xiajiadian xiaceng wenhua yizhi yu mudi fajue baogao [Dadianzi: excavations of a domestic site and cemetery of the Lower Xiajiadian period]. Beijing: Kexue Chubanshe.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Related content

Powered by UNSILO