Erlitou culture

Erlitou culture

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Encyclopedia
The Erlitou culture is a name given by archaeologists to an Early Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 urban society that existed in China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 from 2000 BCE to 1500 BCE. The culture was named after the site discovered at Erlitou (二里頭村) in Yanshi
Yanshi
Yanshi is a county-level city administered by the prefecture-level city of Luoyang in western Henan province, People's Republic of China. The ancient Erlitou culture existed in the area. Yanshi lies on the Luo River. The ruins the first Shang Dynasty capital, Xibo, are located in Shixianggou...

, Henan Province. The culture was widely spread throughout Henan and Shanxi Province, and later appeared in Shaanxi
Shaanxi
' is a province in the central part of Mainland China, and it includes portions of the Loess Plateau on the middle reaches of the Yellow River in addition to the Qinling Mountains across the southern part of this province...

 and Hubei
Hubei
' Hupeh) is a province in Central China. The name of the province means "north of the lake", referring to its position north of Lake Dongting...

 provinces. Most Chinese archaeologists identify the Erlitou culture as the site of the Xia Dynasty
Xia Dynasty
The Xia Dynasty is the first dynasty in China to be described in ancient historical chronicles such as Bamboo Annals, Classic of History and Records of the Grand Historian. The Xia Dynasty was established by the legendary Yu the Great after Shun, the last of the Five Emperors gave his throne to him...

, while most Western archaeologists remain unconvinced of the connection between the Erlitou culture and the Xia Dynasty since there are no extant written records linking Erlitou with the official history.

Culture


Erlitou was the largest settlement in China and even East Asia up to circa 1500 BCE. It is the earliest confirmed capital of China to date with palace buildings and bronze smelting workshops.

The Erlitou culture may have evolved from the matrix of Longshan culture
Longshan culture
The Longshan culture was a late Neolithic culture in China, centered on the central and lower Yellow River and dated from about 3000 BC to 2000 BC...

. Originally centered around Henan and Shanxi Province, the culture spread to Shaanxi and Hubei Province. Erlitou could be remains of Zhēnxún, the capital of the Xia Dyansty described by ancient historians. Dr. Xu Hong, head of the Erlitou Archeological Team, summarizes the disagreement with this:
Was it built by people of the Xia or the Shang? Further excavation will help find the final resolution and provide new materials for periodization of the two dynasties.

Archeology



Discovered in 1959, Erlitou is the largest site associated with the Erlitou Culture. Erlitou monopolized the production of ritual bronze vessels. After the rise of the Erligang culture
Erligang culture
The Erligang culture is the term used by archaeologists to refer to a Bronze Age archaeological culture in China. The primary site was discovered at Erligang, just outside of the modern city of Zhengzhou, Henan, in 1951....

, the site at Erlitou diminished in size but remained inhabited. The city is on the Yi River
Yi River
Yi River may refer to:* Yí River, river in Uruguay, tributary of Río Negro* Yi River , river in China flowing near Longmen Grottoes* Yishui in Shandong, China....

 a tributary of the Luo River
Luo River
Luo River may refer to:*Luo River , river in Henan, China*Luo River , river in Shaanxi, China*Lô River, river in Vietnam...

. The city was 2.4 km by 1.9 km; however, because of flood damage only 3 km2 are left. The palaces are in the southeast portion of the city. Palace 3 is of particular interest; it was composed of three courtyards along a 150 meter axis.

Chronology


Erlitou (4 phases); Erligang (2 phases)
  • Erlitou phase I (100 ha)
  • Erlitou phase II (300 ha) A palace area of 12 ha was demarcated by four roads. It contained the 150x50 m Palace 3 and Palace 5. South of the palatial complex was a bronze foundry.
  • Erlitou phase III (300 ha) The palatial complex is walled by a 2 meter thick rammed earth wall and Palaces 1, 7, 8, 9 are built. Palace 3 and 5 are abandoned and replaced by 4200 m2 Palace 2 and Palace 4.
  • 1564-1521 BCE Erlitou phase IV (300 ha) Palace 6 is built as an extension of Palace 2. Palaces 10 and 11 are built.
  • 1600-1450 BCE Lower Erligang phase Decline begins.
  • 1450-1300 BCE Upper Erligang phase (30 ha) Erlitou returns to a village when all the palaces are abandoned.

See also

  • Erligang culture
    Erligang culture
    The Erligang culture is the term used by archaeologists to refer to a Bronze Age archaeological culture in China. The primary site was discovered at Erligang, just outside of the modern city of Zhengzhou, Henan, in 1951....

  • List of Neolithic cultures of China
  • Three August Ones and Five Emperors
    Three August Ones and Five Emperors
    The Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors were a group of semi- mythological rulers and culture heroes from ancient China during the period circa 2500 BC to 2100 BC. This period preceded the Xia Dynasty....

  • Xia Dynasty
    Xia Dynasty
    The Xia Dynasty is the first dynasty in China to be described in ancient historical chronicles such as Bamboo Annals, Classic of History and Records of the Grand Historian. The Xia Dynasty was established by the legendary Yu the Great after Shun, the last of the Five Emperors gave his throne to him...

  • Xia Shang Zhou Chronology Project
    Xia Shang Zhou Chronology Project
    The Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project was a multi-disciplinary project commissioned by the People's Republic of China in 1996 to determine with accuracy the location and time frame of the Xia Dynasty, the Shang Dynasty and the Zhou Dynasty...