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Ant2008 Recent Advances

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Recent archaeometric research on
‘the origins of Chinese civilisation’
Yuan Jing
& Rod Campbell
We are very pleased to present a summary account of the People’s Republic of China’s project
on the Origins of Chinese Civilization. It has focused on Late Neolithic and early Bronze Age
sites of the Central Plains – the cultural heartland of the first three dynasties of Xia, Shang and
Zhou. Particularly notable is the emphasis of methodology which was driven almost entirely by
the archaeological sciences.
Keywords: China, Late Neolithic, Bronze Age, palaeoecology, palaeobotany, archaeozoology,
ceramics, lithics, jade, bronze-casting, DNA, stable isotope analysis
The origin of Chinese civilisation is an old and fraught question both in China and the
West. What, for instance, does ‘Chinese’ mean in the context of Late Neolithic and Early
Bronze Age China? Should we speak of Chinese civilisation or Chinese civilisations? Did
it or they have a single or multiple origins? What exactly do we mean by ‘civilisation’
anyway? Nevertheless, and despite the long history of these questions and the fact that they
themselves have become more complicated over time, significant progress has been made in
at least some areas. It is now uncontroversial, for instance, to state that Chinese civilisation
had many sources, even if by the former we restrict ourselves to the Yellow River Valley
polities privileged by traditional historiography.
Major discoveries in the last 30 years, both within and beyond the Central Plains have
transformed our understanding of regional development and interaction. There have been
qualitative developments in Chinese archaeology as well, such as the increasing use of inter-
disciplinary specialist collaboration, notably involving archaeological applications of natural
science techniques. Nevertheless, the task of unravelling the prehistory of an area as large
and diverse as China is Herculean and there are many serious lacunae in our understanding
of even the more intensively studied regions. Thus, while there has been much progress
in researching culture-history, chronology, urban sites and elite material culture, much less
is known about the technological and economic aspects of civilisation and its antecedents
in China. To address these concerns and to foster the development of inter-disciplinary
archaeometric approaches in China, collaborative scientific research into the economy and
Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 27 Wangfujing Street, Beijing, 100710, P. R. China
(Email: [email protected])
Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University, 15 East 84t h Street, New York, NY, 10028,
USA (Email: [email protected])
Received: 18 January 2008; Accepted: 20 June 2008; Revised: 15 August 2008
ANTIQUITY 83 (2009): 96–109
Yuan Jing & Rod Campbell
Figure 1. Map showing location of sites discussed in text: 1) Xinzhai; 2) Wangchenggang; 3) Erlitou; 4) Taosi.
technology of several key Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age sites in the Central Plains
was undertaken under the auspices of the Chinese government-funded Origins of Chinese
Civilization Project.
The Origins of Chinese Civilization Project
Announced in 2001 following the completion of the Three Dynasties Chronology Project,
the Origins of Chinese Civilization Project is in some ways an extension of the former,
overlapping in its chronological (2500-1500 BC) and geographic focus. Moreover, while
the Three Dynasties Chronology Project was aimed at giving the traditional historiographic
narrative a firmer chronological basis, the first stage of the Origins of Chinese Civilization
Project focused on the origins and development of what could be termed Central Plains
civilisation in the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age (the Longshan, Erlitou and Erligang
periods). Future phases of research, however, will extend beyond the Central Plains and
expand in chronological range, making this a much more expansive and inclusive project.
The sites focused on in this first stage of research, Taosi, Wangchenggang, Xinzhai and
Erlitou, were selected because of their precocious development, ancestral relationship to
later developments in the Central Plains and their location within the area traditionally
associated with China’s first dynasty: the Xia (Figure 1). The Taosi site (c . 2500-1900 BC)
located in southern Shanxi province, is important for its size (300ha), elite burials, massive
Recent archaeometric research on ‘the origins of Chinese civilisation’
wall, evidence of early bronze-casting and what is apparently a monumental observatory
(Shanxi Team 2005). Wangchenggang (c . 2200-2000 BC), for its part, is significant for
its possible identification with Yangcheng, a capital of Yu, the legendary founder of the
Xia dynasty. With a second rammed earth wall discovered in 2002 enclosing 30ha (Peking
University & Henan Institute 2006), Wangchenggang is the largest walled Longshan site
in Henan province. Sacrificial remains and elite ceramics and jades discovered there are
also suggestive of the possible significance of the site and its relationship to Erlitou elite
practices. Xinzhai culture (c . 2200-1900 BC) is generally understood to be culturally
ancestral to Erlitou and therefore crucial to understanding the origins of the latter (Peking
University & Zhengzhou Institute 2005, 2006). At Erlitou itself (c . 1850-1600 BC), the
first flowering of the Central Plains Bronze Age can be seen with the advent of forms of
palatial architecture, bronze-casting and elite material culture that would remain central to
an expansive metropolitan elite tradition for more than 1000 years (Institute of Archaeology
1999). While some scholars have doubted the historicity of the Xia or the association of
Erlitou with it (e.g. Allan 1984; Bagley 1999), there is no denying that Erlitou stands at
the headwaters of a cluster of traditions that link it with the elite material culture and
practices of the following Shang and Zhou dynasties. Investigation into the economy and
technology of these sites is therefore of crucial importance to understanding the origins
and early development of Central Plains civilisation. The research was divided into eight
components focused on agriculture, animal husbandry, bronze-casting, ceramic production
and stone and jade industries. In the following paragraphs we will briefly introduce the
results of this work, provide a synthetic discussion and suggest avenues for future research.
Palaeobotany (Figure 2)
Analysing 380 flotation samples from Erlitou, Wangchenggang, Xinzai and Taosi, Zhao
(2007) recovered and identified hundreds of thousands of carbonised seeds. He discovered
that, continuing early Chinese Neolithic traditions, cereals, dominated by millets, were the
most common palaeobotanical remains. Nevertheless, this period saw a major development
with rice and soybeans becoming common. In the Erlitou period wheat began to appear in
this area as well. Between the Erlitou and Erligang periods, while rice continued to appear,
wheat seeds suddenly and dramatically increased (see also Lee et al. 2007). It can thus be
said that by Erlitou times this area already had a crop assemblage including millets, barley,
rice, wheat and soybeans. This kind of multi-cropping would have not only increased overall
agricultural production, but diversification would have also acted as insurance against the
failure of any one crop. Increased intensification could support larger populations of non-
producers involved in other activities. Other relevant issues awaiting future research include
the possible use of irrigation or other labour-intensive projects that could have affected social
economic organisation (Rapp 2005).
Zooarchaeological analysis: domestic vs. wild (Figure 3)
After identifying and quantifying over 50 000 bone fragments excavated from
Wangchenggang, Xinzhai, Taosi and Erlitou, Yuan et al. (2007) discovered that the use of
Yuan Jing & Rod Campbell
Figure 2. Archaeobotanical remains (absolute quantity above and percentage of samples with particular plant presence
Figure 3. Comparison of wild and domestic animals. NISP refers to the number of identifiable specimens (i.e. bone fragments)
while MNI refers to the minimum number of individuals (animals).
animals for food during this period had continued earlier traditions with domestic animals
being the primary source of meat. Nevertheless, starting in the Longshan period and despite
the continued predominance of domestic pig in the faunal assemblage, at each of these sites
new domesticates such as cattle (Bos sp.) and sheep (Ovis sp.) began to appear. Between
the Longshan and Erlitou periods these newcomers formed an increasing percentage of
the faunal assemblage while pig declined in relative importance. More than mere sources
of protein, these animals played an important role in ritual as sacrificial victims and were
increasingly used to convey status differences in Shang and Zhou times (Yuan &Flad 2005).
Another matter of interest is the rather sudden appearance of sheep in the archaeological
record, a phenomenon related to East-West contacts at this time. Indeed, the late appearance
Recent archaeometric research on ‘the origins of Chinese civilisation’
Figure 4. Phylogenic tree of 152 modern domestic, wild and ancient sheep.
of domesticated sheep and cattle in China (c . 2500 BC) contrasts with the early appearance
of domesticated dog by 8000 BC and pig by 6200 BC.
Performing DNAanalysis on 10 ancient sheep (4000 BP) fromErlitou and Taosi, Cai et al.
(2007) determined through mutation site and phylogenic analysis that they all belonged to
Asian common branch A (Figure 4). These ancient sheep thus shared a common maternal
Yuan Jing & Rod Campbell
Figure 5. Human and pig δ
C and C
ratios (not including the two Erlitou high C
human outliers).
ancestor with modern Chinese sheep breeds (and some Central Asian ones) such as the
‘short-tailed winter sheep’, Hu, Mongolian and Tong sheep.
Human and pig δ
C and C
ratios (Figure 5)
Using stable isotope analyses on human and animal samples fromTaosi, Erlitou and Xinzhai,
Zhang et al. (2007) and Wu et al. (2007b) were able to show that the occupants of these sites
ate diets primarily composed of C
plants like millet. The samples from Taosi showed a diet
entirely comprised of C
plants while the samples from Xinzhai and Erlitou contained small
percentages of C
plants possibly fromconsuming rice or some other C
plant. Interestingly,
there were two individuals from Erlitou whose diet was comprised primarily of C
completely standing out from the other 20 human samples from Erlitou. Whether these
individuals were resident aliens or whether rice and social status were related could be
elucidated with larger-scale studies that include mortuary context.
Human and pig δ
N (Figure 6)
The stable isotope results for the pigs at the three sites were largely comparable with those
of the humans, suggesting that the pigs may have been eating kitchen scraps and human
waste as is still common practice. This research also showed that because C
plants are
more common in the north China environment than C
plants, simply looking at δ
values ought to be enough to determine whether pigs at a given site were fed as opposed to
foraging in the wild if the agriculture at the site in question was primarily based on C
Recent archaeometric research on ‘the origins of Chinese civilisation’
Figure 6. Human and pig δ
(Figure 5). If, on the other hand, agriculture at a particular site was based primarily on C
plants such as rice, then δ
N analyses or some other source of information is necessary to
distinguish domestically fed vs. free foraging or wild pigs (Figure 6).
Pottery (Figure 7)
Using trace element analyses on 72 ceramic samples from Erlitou, Wang and Hong (2007)
and Wu et al. (2007a) discovered that they could be divided into two groups and one isolated
case: comprised of ordinary clay manufactured ceramics (Group A), white ceramic or grey
ceramic (Group B) drinking vessels, and a single grey jue-vessel (Group C), respectively.
It was noted that the three-footed ceramic wine vessels found at Erlitou underwent a
developmental sequence from red-grey or brown-grey, to white, to finally grey and the
development of ceramic ritual vessels differed from that of daily use ceramics. Group
A contained two deep-bellied guan-jars which stylistically show obvious influences of the
Yueshi culture of modern day Shandong province, yet the results of the trace element analysis
showed that they were very likely manufactured at Erlitou. From this we know that Yueshi
culture ceramic manufacturing techniques were known to at least some of the inhabitants
of the Erlitou site. The composition of the ceramic jue-vessel belonging to Group C showed
obvious differences fromthe other vessels sampled and perhaps it originated in another place
and was brought to Erlitou. The above three groups of ceramic vessels showed differences
resulting from the use of different fabrics, having different uses and perhaps coming from
different places. The samples were also compared to the stamped earthenware and stoneware
unearthed at Erlitou and found to be similar in composition to the stamped earthenware
but different from the stoneware. Analyses of ceramic characteristics such as permeability,
porosity and density also showed similar results, suggesting that the stoneware originated
elsewhere with possible Lower Yangtze sources postulated. While the archaeometric study
of Erlitou ceramics is in its infancy, the above investigations suggest avenues of future
research such as recovering the networks of production and distribution that underlie the
Yuan Jing & Rod Campbell
Figure 7. Erlitou ceramic groupings based on multiple component analysis of trace-elements.
ceramic tradition distributions that have traditionally been the focus of much of Chinese
archaeological work.
Lithic tool assemblages also seem to have undergone dramatic changes over the period
under focus. Wang (2007), in a long-term study of lithic tools, was able to show that in
Late Yangshao and Early Longshan times before 2500 BC tool assemblages mostly consisted
of axes, adzes, shovels and hoes, with axes making up 30-40 per cent of the ground stone
tools. During Late Longshan to Early Shang times (2500-1500 BC) flaked tools became
extremely rare and stone axes and shovels dropped in frequency while harvesting tools such
as knives and sickles begin to form the majority of stone tool assemblages. The great increase
in harvesting tools such as stone knives and sickles may reflect an increasing importance and
intensification of agricultural production.
Erlitou was the early centre and perhaps origin of a suite of Chinese Bronze Age elite
traditions that lasted for a millennium and notably included both jade weapons and bronze
vessels. While Neolithic societies in the area of modern China had been carving jade for
Recent archaeometric research on ‘the origins of Chinese civilisation’
millennia before the occupation of Erlitou, the latter is notable for its large jade blades,
symbolic weapons ancestral to the gui tablets of later Zhou ritual. In a study of jade
craftsmanship at Erlitou, Deng et al. (2007) discovered that blanks for the large blades were
cut from jade boulders in sheets. The manufacturing process included chipping, sawing,
drilling with hollow drills, grinding and polishing and showed technical progress from the
preceding Neolithic craftsmanship. Following photographic analysis, Deng was able to show
that Erlitou jade ge-dagger-axe and yue-axe blades display hafting marks, demonstrating that
they were, in fact, components of symbolic weapons and not simply abstract ritual jade
artefacts. Deng also performed a preliminary reconstruction of the manufacture of the
turquoise plaques found at Erlitou, dividing them into types, analysing the ways they were
assembled into larger artefacts, and studying the construction of the large dragon-shaped
artefact discovered in 2004 (Erlitou Team 2005). These preliminary technical studies of
Erlitou jade and semi-precious stone craftsmanship will no doubt contribute to a fuller
understanding of these crucial industries as well as forming points of departure for future,
perhaps more socially focused, studies of elite craft production.
Bronze-casting (Figure 8)
There is probably no form of technology in Chinese archaeology that has been more studied
and debated than bronze-casting, especially its origins and the sources of its ores. Researching
bronze artefacts from all periods at Erlitou, Li and Hong (2007) discovered that Erlitou
may have had both arsenic bronze and tin-(lead) bronze metallurgical traditions. Given that
arsenic bronze typifies early bronze metallurgy of north-western cultures such as Qijia and
Siba, and tin-(lead) bronze is said to typify the metallurgical tradition that developed in the
Central Plains (Li 2005), finding both at Erlitou is significant. Moreover, although there was
a shift from an arsenic bronze tradition toward tin-(lead) bronze production around Erlitou
Phase II, there may have been a long period of overlap and some tin-(lead) bronze artefacts
continued to containarsenic well after arsenic bronzes had become rare. Based onthe fact that
elements such as bismuth, antimony and silver have been detected in high tin-lead-(arsenic)
alloy slag, it was hypothesised that the tin from tin-(lead) bronze may have originated in
tin-lead alloy (which can contain arsenic). This suggests that the raw material for the Erlitou
bronze industry may have come from a mineral source simultaneously containing tin, lead
and arsenic. Mineral deposits containing both lead and tin frequently also contain arsenic,
silver, bismuth and antimony with each ore belt containing different ores. If arsenblende,
arsenopyrite or julienite contained in such mineral deposits were directly added into the
smelting process the result would have been arsenic bronze. If ore containing tin, lead and
arsenic was smelted, however, it could have resulted in lead-tin alloy and ‘yellowslag’, which,
when combined with copper could result in tin-lead-(arsenic) bronze. The development of
smelting technology can result in the appearance of different alloys as well. In early periods,
under conditions of a relatively weak reducing atmosphere, attempts to smelt ores containing
tin, lead and arsenic would have resulted in arsenic-(lead) bronze, as the tin would not have
readily separated out. Because of this the change from arsenic bronze to tin-lead-(arsenic)
bronze may reflect a gradual process of processing a single mineral source as well as improving
smelting technology (increasingly strong reducing atmospheres). The finding that tin, lead
Yuan Jing & Rod Campbell
Figure 8. Arsenic bronze slag adhering to an Erlitou crucible fragment indicating possible common source of arsenic and
and arsenic may have originated in a single source has very important ramifications for the
study of the Erlitou metallurgical industry and its development, as well as the search for the
source of its ores.
Synthesising the above research, it can be said that obvious and dramatic changes took
place in the economies of Central Plains societies between 2500 and 1500 BC, most
conspicuously in the realm of agriculture and animal husbandry. In the Central Plains
from Longshan to Erlitou times rice and domestic cattle became common while wheat
and sheep arrived from western Asia creating an increasingly diverse agricultural economy.
The addition of rice, wheat, cattle and sheep would not only have brought new food
sources but also new cultivation and husbandry techniques, effecting structural changes
in agricultural production. Between the Erlitou and Erligang periods the scale of wheat
cultivation dramatically increased, a development with great long-term ramifications for
later northern Chinese dry farming crop regimes.
Another characteristic of economic change in this period was the development of the
bronze, ceramic, lithic and jade industries. While the first mould-cast bronze bell discovered
to date was cast in the Late Longshan period, the Erlitou period saw dramatic development
Recent archaeometric research on ‘the origins of Chinese civilisation’
in bronze-casting with the first large-scale bronze workshops and multi-component moulds.
During the Erlitou period rare examples of stamped-patterned stoneware and even proto-
porcelain also made their appearance, possibly imported from the south. The firing
temperatures attained during the millennia under study in the Central Plains show obvious
advances over earlier periods and ceramic ritual sets reached their apogee before being
replaced by bronze sets beginning in the Erlitou period. Multi-function production tools
such as stone adzes ceased to dominate lithic assemblages, flaked tools became rarer and
specialised agricultural tools such as stone knives and sickles increased in relative frequency.
The variety of jade artefacts increased in this period while the techniques of chipping,
sawing, drilling, grinding and polishing all showed technological development.
Thus between 2500 and 1500 BC, the Central Plains area saw major developments in
both agricultural regimes and craft production. At the same time, the rammed earth walls,
large scale structures and a possibly astronomically related feature at Taosi all dating from
the Longshan period, as well as the palace-temple structures and complex bronze-casting at
Erlitou, display the material correlates of increasing concentrations of productive force and
the diverse ends to which they were put.
What do these things tell us about the origins of Chinese civilisation? As noted earlier,
the studies discussed here were focused on the antecedents of the Central Plains Bronze
Age, home of the ruling dynasties of the traditional Chinese historical narrative and it is
only with the caveat of an ancestral relation that we can speak of them in terms of ‘Chinese’
civilisation. This leaves the question of the meaning of ‘civilisation’ and the relationship
of economic and technological development to it. While remaining deeply ambiguous
and ambivalent (Elias 1994; Patterson 1997), ‘civilisation’ has been employed recently by
archaeologists in two quite different ways. The first use goes back to early twentieth-century
social evolutionists like Morgan and Childe and takes ‘civilisation’ to mean an advanced
stage in human social evolution marked by such developments as cities, writing, metallurgy,
social hierarchy, elite material culture and states. The second use of ‘civilisation’ has been as
a kind of cultural sphere in which early polities were embedded: the normative traditions,
practices and symbols demarking the ordered/domesticated world from the chaos beyond.
The first use of the term ‘civilisation’ has been much debated and the various markers that
supposedly attend this stage of social evolution are in dispute. If there can be said to be a
consensus on the topic of social evolution in archaeology it is that there is great variety in the
material and practical expressions of what one might want to call ‘civilisation’. In the Central
Plains case, we can already see many of the markers of increasing scale and intensity of social
interaction in the enormous, sometimes walled, sites (100-300ha), large-scale rammed earth
structures and growing distinctions in burial hierarchy that begin to appear in the later half
of the third millennium BC.
From a materialist historical perspective, changes in form and scale of production
predicated on social re-organisation or technological development are necessary bases of
increasing social complexity, and agriculture and craft production are frequently seen in
these terms in archaeology. Recently, however, authors such as Andrew Sherratt (1999: 16)
have noted that not only can ‘food production’ be seen as sharing a common social domain
with ‘craft production’ in requiring ‘technological knowledge, skill and investment both in
productive facilities and in distributive networks’, but also in sharing ‘the domain of value and
Yuan Jing & Rod Campbell
exchange’. Food and craft production then are not only facets of the ‘economy’ and their
development is not merely a matter of technological advance. This realisation means that
the creation or introduction of new elements such as bronze metallurgy or cattle would have
involved socio-cultural negotiation and adaptation along the way to incorporating these
things into increasing elaborations of material culture, people and meanings.
Taking up the second use of ‘civilisation’, cattle and bronze (among other things) mutually
shaped the development of a tradition of hierarchical ancestral sacrifice and feasting that
many authors have posited lay at the heart of Chinese Bronze Age civilisation. Jade and
bronze symbolic weapons were the second most important form of symbolic capital in the
Central Plains Bronze Age tradition and thus the incorporation of jade and later bronze
symbolic weapons in increasingly hierarchical mortuary contexts suggests the dawn of a
world in which it was possible, a millennium later, to state that ‘the great affairs of the state
are sacrifice and war’ (Zuo Zhuan, Cheng 13). Given this, future research ought to explore
explicitly the social contexts of changes in production and economy and the ways in which
these changes were involved in refiguring local and regional networks of objects, practices
and ideologies. In short, more work needs to be done on exploring the ways in which the
addition of new elements reconfigured local worlds by explicitly looking at the connections
between things, practices and people in ancient China.
Another significant contribution of the research discussed here was the evidence of
long-distance contact indicated by the introduction of sheep, wheat and possibly cattle
from western Asia. The prevalence of arsenic bronze in the early stages of Central Plains
metallurgy, and the revelation that it was probably advances in smelting technique rather
than a separate metallurgical tradition that distinguished tin-(lead) bronze from arsenic
bronze, is significant for the suggestion that bronze metallurgy may also have been an import
from the north-west where arsenic bronze occurs earlier than in the Central Plains. More
locally, evidence for Eastern Shandong potting techniques being reproduced at Erlitou, the
putative Lower Yangtze origin of stamped stoneware and the possible southern origin of two
individuals found at Erlitou, showthe importance of inter-regional interaction and exchange
to Central Plains societies in this period. What is still unclear, however, are the forms that
this interaction took and it is hoped that future research will focus on both the mechanisms
of exchange and the processes through which new elements were locally absorbed.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the research produced by the Origins of Chinese
Civilization Project lies in its scientific nature. No longer content to merely map
archaeological culture, history and chronology, the current multi-disciplinary collaborative
archaeometric project reflects the growing sophistication and diversity of Chinese
archaeological practice. Bringing together specialists to focus onkey sites withinthe same area
and time period, performing analyses in palaeobotany, zooarchaeology, DNA, palaeodiet,
bronze-casting waste, ceramic composition and firing, lithic and jade composition and
manufacture, within a cooperative project aimed at a synthetic reconstruction of ancient
society, is something that has never been attempted in China before on this scale. In
addition, some of these studies, such as the work on ancient DNA, were undertaken as
Recent archaeometric research on ‘the origins of Chinese civilisation’
basic, foundation-building research which in the future promise even greater results. From
a methodological point of view this project was a pioneering synthetic study with its
eight component approaches mutually informing an overall understanding of this crucial
period and beginning to fill serious lacunae in the literature. The success of this research
will hopefully presage the continued expansion of multi-specialist collaborative projects in
China and with it, a shift toward more integrated social and economic studies.
Although with the current research it has been shown that dramatic changes with long-
term repercussions took place in the economies of Central Plains societies between 2500
and 1500 BC, it should also be noted that at present comparable quantitative work on
the technology and economy of the periods before and after 2500-1500 BC, or regions
surrounding the Central Plains has yet to be undertaken. Thus detailed comparisons between
this selected time frame and the periods before and after are currently impossible. Given the
preliminary nature of the results, little can be said at this time about the interrelationships
of different components of the economy, specific technological advances and their socio-
cultural impact.
Accordingly, in the next phase of research, the chronological, geographical and
methodological scope of the project will expand to include the systematic and quantitative
study of periods before and after 2500-1500 BC, the Upper and Lower Yellow River areas,
the Yangtze region and other areas, and the relationships between material culture, social
hierarchy and political forms.
The research for this article was supported by the Chinese Science Council project on the ‘Formation and
Early Development of Chinese Civilization from 2500-1500 BC–Research on Technology and Economy’
(2006BAK21B03). The Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University generously gave
one of us (Rod Campbell) post-doctoral support during the writing of this article. The authors would like to
thank Dr Liu Jianguo of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Institute of Archaeology for his assistance in
making the map and Dr Li Xingwei also of the Institute of Archaeology for his comments. Further thanks are
extended to Professors Li Yun-kun and Rowan Flad for reading early versions of this article and to Professor
Charles Higham and an anonymous reviewer for their comments and suggestions.
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