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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Ceramic variability of Shang society at Huanbei in Anyang, China Fong, Denise Catalina


The study of ceramic variability in Chinese archaeology is conventionally understood in the context of temporal and regional differences, where emphasis is placed on explaining variability in terms of identifying regional styles and long-term changes. In this thesis, I examine ceramic variability of Shang pottery between two contiguous daily-use contexts at Huanbei, a Middle Shang period (1400-1250 BCE) site located in the Central Plains of China. Based on the analysis of pottery sherds collected from daily-use contexts at Hanwangdu (HWD) and Huyuanzhuang (HYZ), I argue that ceramics collected within a single-site context can be highly varied and distinct due to differences in use-context. Assemblage differences and ceramic variation are evaluated according to rim sherd attributes including vessel shape, rim and lip shape, dimensional properties, and surface treatment styles. Possible interpretive models for explaining observed patterns of variability are presented. Results of this study suggest that siginificant variability in pottery vessel design can be observed in the samples examined from the Huanbei site. Consumers from the HWD (a palace context) consumed a greater variety of pottery vessel types but with a more limited range of shapes and decorative styles. In contrast, consumers from HYZ (a non-palatial context) consumed a limited range of pottery vessel types but with a greater variability in the range of shapes and decoration. The observed patterns of variation reinforce current assumptions regarding the contextual differences between HWD and HYZ, and also provide new insight into the differential pottery consumption patterns by different social classes at Huanbei. Results of this study indicate the potential value of studying intra-site ceramic variation in Chinese archaeology and its importance in creating new knowledge on the material consumption behavior of different social classes.

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