City site of the Late Xia Dynasty
Location: Yanshi, Henan Province
Period: 1900-1500 BC
Excavated from 1959 to the
Significance: The Erlitou Culture is named
after the site. It has been preliminarily confirmed as the capital of the Late
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
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.