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Erlitou Site

City site of the Late Xia Dynasty

Location: Yanshi, Henan Province

Period: 1900-1500 BC

Excavated from 1959 to the present

Significance: The Erlitou Culture is named after the site. It has been preliminarily confirmed as the capital of the Late Xia Dynasty.

 Introduction

The Erlitou Site is the city ruins of the late Xia Dynasty with an area of about 3 square kilometers. Remains such as palace, residential area, pottery and bronze workshops, and tombs were excavated in the site. Quite a few cultural relics of stone, pottery, jade ware, and bronze were unearthed here, among which the Jue is so far the earliest bronze vessel excavated in China. The Erlitou Culture is named after the site.  
Turquoise-inlaid bronze plaque with animal mask: ornament (left-up, height 14.4 cm); Pottery pot in the shape of duck: water vessel or wine vessel (left-bottom, height 10 cm); Bronze Jue (three-legged vessel with handle and open spout): wine vessel (right-bottom, height 22.5 cm)

Erlitou Culture

Erlitou Culture of the central plains of North China was the first state-level society in China, and its remains are taken to be correlates of the Xia Dynasty. Remains of palatial buildings, royal tombs, and paved roads were uncovered, leading to hypotheses that the site represents a Xia capital.

The society employed advanced bronze technology. The earliest urbanization in Bronze Age in China emerged during the Erlitou Culture. Some 38 calibrated radiocarbon dates derived from Erlitou Site in Henan indicate that this culture may have flourished during a period between 1900 and 1500 BC. Erlitou is the largest among all its contemporary sites in China, and sites containing the Erlitou material assemblages have been found over a very broad region mainly including Henan, southern Shanxi, Eastern Shaanxi, and Hubei.

Erlitou was characterized by a centralized and internally specialized government, indicated by a great concentration of palatial foundations and various craft workshops in an urban center (Erlitou), and rapid cultural expansion over a large region.

Some people may argue that some of these characteristics can be observed in the Longshan Culture. But they did not occur altogether. Erlitou manifested a qualitative social change from the Longshan Culture, while the Erligang Culture represented a quantitative change from the Erlitou.

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