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A mortuary analysis of the Dawenkou Cemetery Site, Shandong, China Kingscott, Anne Underhill


This study is concerned with the development of social ranking in Shandong province, China, and its environs, during the late Neolithic period. The Dawenkou cemetery has been considered by Chinese and western archaeologists as representing one of the earliest ranked societies in this region. There is some disagreement regarding the degree of status differentiation reflected by the mortuary remains at Dawenkou. Opinions vary as to whether the site shows incipient ranking, or a more fully developed system, or whether there was a hereditary ruling class. The primary goal of this study is to provide a greater understanding of the nature and degree of status differentiation represented at Dawenkou, by means of an in-depth mortuary analysis utilizing current archaeological methods. The methodology upon which this study is based is outlined in Chapter 2. Four analyses are included: an evaluation of the three relative chronological periods at the site (Chapter 3), an analysis to estimate the sex of unsexed burials on the basis of grave goods (Chapter 4), an exploratory assessment of social subgroup affiliation (Chapter 5), and the analysis of status differentiation (Chapter 6). I conclude that an increase through time in the degree of ranking is represented at the site. The Early period burials reflect elements of both an achieved and an ascribed (ranked) system of status differentiation. The Late period burials appear to reflect a highly developed ranked society. I propose that the Early period burials represent part of a social system in which members of a descent group were ranked. Also, the Late period burials represent members of a descent group that constitutes one status level in a regional status system. Mortuary analyses of other Dawenkou Culture sites roughly contemporaneous to the Early and Late periods at Dawenkou could reveal whether similar changes through time are apparent. It is likely that ranking first developed in the eastern seaboard region at an earlier date than previously considered. The secondary goal of this study is to make a methodological contribution to mortuary analysis. I argue that status may be symbolized by energy expenditure, grave goods, or both. Since the burials in a cemetery reflect more than one social system through time, an analysis of status should emphasize change through time. Finally, some of the techniques employed in this study should have utility for other mortuary analyses: the Simple Inspection Method to estimate sex (Chapter 4), and Ward's Method of cluster analysis and Torgerson's Metric Multidimensional Scaling for an analysis of status (Chapter 6), or for seriation (Chapter 3).

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