Dawenkou Culture

Excavation process

The remains of the Dawenkou Culture were first discovered at the site of Gangshang Village in Teng County in 1952 and at the Huashang Cemetery in Xinyi, Jiangsu Province in 1952 and 1953, but the nature of the culture was long recognized as the Longshan Culture. It was not until the excavation of the Xixiahou site in Qufu in 1962 and 1963 that the stratigraphic relationship of the culture earlier than that of Longshan was discovered, and then it was named the Dawenkou culture in 1964. Subsequently, several excavations were carried out in 1974, 1977 and 1978.

The Dawenkou culture is characterized by a group of distinctive pottery. Sandwich pottery and clay red pottery are the main features, but there are also gray and black pottery, and a small amount of hard white pottery. The clay pottery is often decorated with open holes and scratch patterns, and there are colored pottery and simple Zhu-painted pottery. Sandy pottery on a few decorated with additional pile pattern and basket pattern.

The three-footed ware and round-footed ware are well developed, and there are also flat-bottomed ware, round-bottomed ware and bag-footed ware. The typical wares are goblet-shaped wares, kettle-shaped wares, bowl-shaped wares, jar-shaped wares, beans with open holes, double-nosed pots, back pots, broad-shouldered pots, solid-footed pots, bag-footed pots, high-handled cups, bottles, and large-mouthed zun.

The inhabitants of the Dawenkou culture practiced artificial deformation of the occipital bone and tooth extraction at puberty. It is the birthplace of the tooth-pulling custom popular in the east and south of ancient China.

On the bones in the tombs of Wangin and Dadunzi, abnormal deformation of the jawbone was also found, and the outer side of some individual molars were severely worn and even retracted, and in several cases there were small stone balls or ceramic balls at the disposal of the deformation, and the deformation was due to the long-term oral inclusion of small balls. This is a peculiar custom unique to the Dawenkou culture. In addition, the deceased were buried with roe deer teeth, roe deer hook-shaped ware and turtle armor, which are also rare in other Neolithic cultures.

Excavated pottery


Painted pottery basin

The early pottery of the Dawenkou culture is mainly sandwiched red pottery and clay red pottery, and the quantity of gray and black pottery is smaller. The production of pottery is mainly hand-made, and the wheel repair technology has been commonly used. The decoration has string pattern, scratch pattern, milk ding pattern, rope pattern, additional pile pattern, cone thorn pattern and nail pattern, etc.. The number of colored pottery has increased, and the patterns are elaborate. The dot, arc and leaf hook patterns are similar to those of the Yangshao culture, and may have been influenced by the Yangshao culture. In the middle period, the number of sandwiched red pottery is the most, followed by clay black pottery and gray pottery, and the number of clay red pottery and sandwiched gray pottery is the least.

The difference between the pottery system of the middle period and the early period is the decrease of the quantity of clay red pottery and the increase of the quantity of clay black pottery and clay gray pottery. The middle period also appeared some fire higher Jin’er texture more dense gray and white pottery.

Pottery production methods are mainly hand-made, wheel repair is more common, some small objects have begun to wheel system. The pottery is mainly plain, and the surface of some shapes is polished. There is found to be a complicated woven pattern. There are a small amount of colored pottery. Late pottery industry has been a large development, the wheel system technology has been used to produce large pieces of pottery.

Burning cellar technology has improved, firing the amount of thin tire polished black pottery, tire thickness of only 1-2 mm. By improving the cellar temperature, burned thin tire, hard texture, color beauty white pottery, yellow pottery and pink pottery. The pottery of the late period of Dawenkou culture is most abundant in gray pottery, followed by black and white pottery. A new type of vessel shape such as large broad-shouldered pots and bottles appeared. The imitation animal-shaped pottery that had appeared in the middle period was innovated again in the late period. Colored pottery decreased in the late period, but there were still multicolored pottery with complex patterns.

Architectural Remains

There are not many architectural remains found in the Dawenkou culture, and only a few remnants belonging to the early period are found, so that the overall structure cannot be seen. In the middle period of architectural remains, a 20-square-meter square ground house foundation was found at the site of Chengzi, with the door facing south, and a flat ground dug into a groove to build the foundation, with vertical columns in the groove, filled with soil and hammered. The interior of the four pillar holes filled with broken pottery, stones, gray soil, tight and solid.

Three models of pottery houses were excavated from the tomb of Dadunzi, both square and round, and all of them were made to save the spire. Some of them have doors and windows, surrounded by eaves, and the outer wall of the house is carved with the outline line of a dog, which provides a three-dimensional image of the mid-period housing. In the late period, four house foundations were found at the Sanlihe site. One is better preserved, oval in plan, also with a dug-out foundation and a round cellar more than 1 meter deep inside, containing rotten corn, which excavators believe was a storehouse.

Burial Culture

More burials of Dawenkou culture were found. The burial heads of the early culture remains mainly face east, but also face north. The burial system is mainly single burial, but there are also more joint burials. Burial to same-sex burial and multiple secondary burial mainly. The human bones of multiple secondary burial tombs are arranged very neatly. Early burial in the late burial with the phenomenon of varying amounts of burial goods, and the performance is more significant, more than 40 to 50 pieces, less than one piece are not. The situation of buried production tools also differs between men and women. Men have more production tools and hand tools, and women have more living tools. Most of the burials with dogs are male.

The early burials of the Dawenkou culture also commonly used roe deer teeth and roe deer hook-shaped ware and tortoise nails, etc., and also commonly existed the phenomenon of removing the incisors and artificially deforming the skull of adult men and women. The age of tooth extraction is between 15-20 years old.

Most of the burial heads of the mid-culture remains face east or north. The burial style is mainly single supine straight limb burial, and there are a certain number of joint burial tombs. There are same-sex burials, adult male and female burials of a certain age, adults and children buried together. Among them, a pair of adult male and female burial tomb of equal age has the largest number. The number of secondary co-burial graves decreases compared with the first period.

The number of same-sex burial graves in the middle period is very small, most of them are two males buried together. A pair of adult male and female burials of equal age, the human skeleton arrangement is generally male left and female right. Some adult male and female burial tomb burial style is the male supine straight limbs, the female side of the limbs facing the male, with burial goods mostly on the male side. Buried goods are more prominent than before, more than sixty pieces, the widow is nothing.

The rich tomb, not only with more burial goods, and very delicate, with a larger number of symbols of wealth of pig jawbone and pig head buried, and even with the whole pig, the whole dog buried with. Some of the large and medium-sized tombs in the middle period are equipped with two-story platforms and log burial sets. Late cultural remains burials are still mainly single supine straight limb burials, with a small number of joint burial tombs. The period of burial tombs are mostly a pair of adult men and women buried together, individual pair of adult men and women and children buried together, same-sex burial disappeared. Head to the general direction of the east, part of the Jiaodong Peninsula is indeed the prevalence of head to the west or northwest burial style. Where a pair of adult men and women buried together, burial goods are generally concentrated on the male side.

Late burial burials with varying amounts of burial goods more serious phenomenon than before. Some large tombs had more than seventy burial items, while others had nothing. The archaeology also revealed that small family cemeteries emerged in the clan cemeteries of the late Dawenkou culture. The phenomenon of division between rich and poor has also appeared among the family cemeteries. The concept of soul also changed in this period, no longer using the cause of death alone to distinguish the good and evil of the soul, the cemetery appeared on the rich tomb without a corpse, the rich tomb with a severed head, these murderous dead were the new noblemen of the clan, were given a generous burial.

Economic level

The economy of Dawenkou culture was mainly agricultural, and like other primitive cultures in the Yellow River basin, the main cultivation was corn. One of the caves at the Sanlihe site unearthed 1 cubic meter of rotten corn, indicating that there was a considerable amount of food production. The tools of agricultural production were mainly ground stone tools.

In the early period, in addition to some stone shovels and axes with rough grinding and scarring, there was a large number of well-sharpened perforated axes, knives, shovels, etc. Harvesting tools included bone scythes and clam scythes, and tools for processing grain were stone mortars and pestles, stone grinding plates, and stone grinding sticks. In the middle and late stages of this culture, stone shovels with shoulders, stone picks and some antler hoes appeared. This primitive tribal group had developed livestock breeding since the early period, and bones of domestic animals and poultry such as pigs, dogs, cows and chickens were excavated from various sites, and dogs and pigs were often found buried with them in cemeteries.

After the middle of the Dawenkou culture, the culture of burial with pigs became popular, and whole pigs, half pigs, pig heads or pig jaw bones were found in the tombs. Fishing and hunting and gathering economy are still relatively important in the socio-economic life. Some sites found fishing and hunting tools with holes in the tail of the double barbed or triple barbed bone, horned swim bladder, fish hooks, flat triangular, short stile cylindrical, long stile double-winged ridge type and other kinds of bone arrowheads, horned arrowheads, tooth arrowheads, stone and horned daggers, and stone spears, bone spears and other large thrust hunting equipment and more net pendants.

The site was found to contain the bones of roe deer, spotted deer, civet, and elk, which are wild animals when they were hunting objects. At the Yanzhou Wangin site, the remains of more than 20 crocodiles were unearthed and dumped in a garbage pit with fish, turtles, turtle and mussels, a phenomenon that suggests that clan members were already able to collectively capture large, fierce aquatic animals.

Agricultural Economy

The socio-economy of the Dawenkou Culture developed comprehensively and rapidly after the middle period. The appearance of white pottery, jade and ivory ware and the application of fast-wheel pottery-making techniques indicate that part of the hand production had been separated from agriculture and became a relatively independent economic sector.

The development of pottery production, showing a clear stage. Early are hand-made, sandy pottery fire is low, not many types of pottery, simple shape, only see goblet-shaped ware, basin, bowl, jar, cup, tripod, beans, large mouth zun. The middle period began to use the wheel system technology, there are a small number of wheel system small pieces of ware; firing out of the fire higher gray-white pottery; ware categories increased, appeared solid footed pearl, back pot, gui-shaped ware, etc..

Late has used the fast wheel to produce large pieces of pottery, such as the Dawenkou tomb buried with the wheel system of large pottery basin; pottery raw materials have a new source, found the crucible clay, used to fire a hard texture, thin wall uniform, bright white, yellow, pink fine sand pottery, collectively known as white pottery, this kind of fine sand pottery are bag footed pearl, three-footed wedding, broad-shouldered pot and cylinder beans. At this time, the firing of the thin-skinned polished black pottery high-handled cup, representing the highest level of pottery-making technology at the time, for the future of the Longshan culture in Shandong eggshell pottery was prepared for the introduction of the conditions. The Dawenkou culture also found that there are imitation animal-shaped pottery arts and crafts, the middle of the production of beast-shaped beam-bearing ware can be called the treasures in the history of arts and crafts; late such findings increased, reflecting the purity of technology and pottery industry thriving. Few pottery kilns of Dawenkou culture were found. The stone and jade making industries were more developed. The early period has produced a large number of finely ground stone tools, and more use of perforation technology.

Bone making technology

After the middle period, high hardness opal and rhyolite were used as stone materials; the shape of stone tools became more regular; the number of tools and types increased, and there were series of tools, and in some tombs there were sets of large, medium and small stone adzes buried with them; there were also exquisite jade shovels, and more jade and stone decorations, including string decorations composed of single pieces of different shapes. The bone making process is outstanding.

There are exquisite small bone carvings unearthed in early graves, such as a string of 10 carved bone beads at the Dadunzi site in Pixian, and tooth ornaments with pig’s head patterns at the Liu Lin site; some roe deer hook-shaped ware has a slender pattern carved on the handle. In the middle and late periods, the technique of ground carving and inlay technology has become mature. The sixteen-tooth ivory combs, petal-patterned ivory cylinders and turquoise inlaid bone cylinders from the Dawenkou represent the highest level of bone making in China during the Neolithic period. [2]

Artificial deformation of the occipital bone and extraction of a pair of lateral upper incisors at puberty were prevalent among the inhabitants at that time, and some of them held small stone or ceramic balls in their mouths for a long time, causing the jaws to be deformed by internal shrinkage. It was also popular to put perforated tortoise armor on the waist of the deceased, and the deceased held a roe deer tooth or roe deer tooth hook-shaped vessel in their hands. These customs are rare for other prehistoric cultures in China.

According to the available data, the pottery of the Dawenkou culture was found to be inscribed with a possible script, which can be regarded as an earlier Chinese character that has been found, and can also be regarded as a kind of inscribed symbol, an inscribed symbol that expresses a clear meaning, with clear shape and meaning, so it is not an ordinary inscribed symbol again.

Cultural Stages

Early Period

About 4300-3500 years ago

Liu Lin and Wang Yin sites

There are goblet-shaped vessels, kettle-shaped vessels, bowl-shaped vessels, painted pottery pots and bowls, etc. There are monochromatic iridescent or black colored pottery, and later there is a prevalence of multi-colored pottery in white, with patterns such as petal pattern, polka dotted hook and leaf pattern, and rhombus pattern.

Middle period

About 3500-2800 years ago

Early and middle period of Dawenkou Cemetery

There are folding jar-shaped tripods, solid-footed pots, round-footed beans with large open holes, and deep-bellied back pots, etc.

Late Period

Around 2800-2500 years ago

Late Dawenkou Cemetery

There are basket-shaped tripod, bag-footed tripod, folded-belly bean, bottle, polished black earthenware high-handled cup, basket-shaped large-mouth zun, etc. Gray and black pottery and yellow pottery increased dramatically. The number of colored pottery decreases and spiral pattern is popular.

Dawenkou culture is a primitive culture distributed in the lower reaches of the Yellow River and the Jianghuai region of China. 1959 in Shandong Tai’an, Ningyang two counties (now Tai’an City, Shandong Province, Dayue District and Ningyang County) junction of the Dawenkou, Fort site, excavated hundreds of tombs, unearthed a large number of unique style of cultural relics. Later on, sites and burials of the same type of culture have been found in a wide area of Shandong and northern Jiangsu, which is the Dawenkou culture. The Dawenkou culture has undergone a long development process and can be tentatively divided into early, middle and late stages from the excavated materials.

Agricultural production

During the period of the Dawenkou culture, the gender of the laborers for social production has changed a lot successively. This can be well illustrated by the changes in the two types of tools buried with men and women: stone shovel, stone axe, stone adze and spinning wheel. After the middle of the Dawenkou culture, buried with stone shovel, stone axe, stone adze and other production tools are mainly male, while buried with the spinning wheel is mainly female. This shows that men have become the main bearer of social production, especially agricultural production, while women are engaged in domestic labor such as weaving, society has developed from the matrilineal clan commune stage to the patrilineal clan commune stage.

In the late Dawenkou culture, with the development of production, private ownership has emerged. The family pig is an important movable property of the Dawenkou clan family. There are some Dawenkou burials with many pig heads and jawbones. These buried pig heads and pig jaw bones should be the private property of the tomb owner during his lifetime. In addition, the buried private property includes pottery, production tools and various decorations.

The emergence and development of private ownership inevitably led to the polarization of the rich and the poor, and the emergence of the rich and the poor within the clan. The burials of the middle and late Da Wenkou culture clearly reflect this evolution. From the scale of the tombs, there is a difference between large and small tombs. From the viewpoint of burial goods, the difference is even more dramatic, there are two groups of tombs can be compared: a group of seven tombs, burial goods are richer, the most up to 77 pieces, the least also has 19 pieces, including pottery, jade ware, pig’s head, etc.; another group of four tombs, burial goods are very poor, a total of only 17 pieces, for pottery, spinning wheel, roe deer, etc.. It can be seen that the division between rich and poor has been very significant.

Black pottery and white pottery are two new varieties of pottery industry in the late period of Dawenkou culture, reflecting the significant progress of pottery making technology at that time. At this time the pottery has been used to manufacture fast-turning pottery car. The pottery car is composed of a wheel and an axle. Use, by one person to turn the wheel, so that its rapid rotation, by another person with the pottery wheel rotation formed by centrifugal force, with the dexterity of the hands of the movement, the clay molded into the required vessels. With fast-turning pottery carriage billet making, more quantity, quality is also good. The firing technology has also been improved. The kiln chamber was enlarged, the fire opening was narrowed, and the number of fire channel branches and grate holes in the kiln grates was increased to make the heat distribution more even. This time the use of high temperature tightly sealed kiln technology, so that the iron in the clay can be reduced, some also in the clay mixed with charcoal, so the firing of the pottery is mostly black. White pottery with kaolin clay manufacturing, manufacturing efforts to maintain the purity of the clay, and therefore fired white. The emergence of white pottery has great significance, it laid the technical foundation for the future production of porcelain. Some of the white pottery has patterns on it.

Social nature

According to the excavation of Dawenkou culture sites, especially the excavation of burial, there are three different views on the social development stage of Dawenkou culture.

First, it is believed that private ownership has been established, monogamy has been consolidated, and should be at the end stage of matrilineal clan society.

Secondly, it is believed that the burial goods in the tomb are very different, and writing has appeared, so it should be the primary stage of the emergence of slave society.

Third, according to the Dawenkou burial materials, that should be in the matrilineal clan society to the patrilineal clan society transition stage.

One of the more consistent view is that the early Dawenkou culture is at the end of the matrilineal clan society, but in the latter early stage, the matrilineal society began to disintegrate, and gradually transition to the patrilineal society. The middle period of Dawenkou culture has entered the stage of patriarchal society, and the private ownership of wealth and the division between rich and poor have further developed in the middle period. The late Dawenkou culture had a greater development of productivity than the middle period, and the development of productivity promoted the change of production relations, and the patriarchal system established before had gradually fallen and the clan system had also collapsed.

The early stage of the Dawenkou culture was basically distributed only in Shandong and northern Jiangsu, and its southern boundary was no more than the Yellow River, reaching north to the northern part of Lu, the western boundary on both sides of the canal, and east to the Yellow Sea. However, there have been different opinions on the cultural nature of the early remains in the Jiaodong Peninsula area.

The distribution range of the middle phase of the Dawenkou culture did not change greatly in the south and north, but there are signs that the trend of expansion to the west may have begun at that time. At this time, there are still differences of opinion on the nature of the remains of the same period in the Jiaodong Peninsula, but the mainstream opinion is that in the middle period of the Dawenkou Culture, the culture of the Jiaodong Peninsula already “belongs to a different type of the Dawenkou Culture”.

Late Period Remains

Remains of the late Dawenkou culture were commonly found in northern Anhui and eastern Henan, and bottom deposits clearly belonging to the late Dawenkou culture were excavated in Huaiyang Pinggongtai, Luantai in Luyi, and Yuchiji in Mengcheng. In other words, the distribution range of the late Dawenkou culture has been extended westward to the area of Huaiyang.

As for the Yuzhong area and the southern part of Liaodong Peninsula, although many remains containing elements of Dawenkou culture and even individual Dawenkou burials have been found, they have not changed the nature of the local culture as a whole, so these areas do not belong to the distribution area of Dawenkou culture, but can only be said to be the area influenced by Dawenkou culture. From the excavated remains, we can find that the socio-economy of the Dawenkou culture had developed to a high level. Many of the carved symbols found are considered to be ancient pictographs.

There was a serious division of society between rich and poor, private ownership was gradually formed, and the whole society was close to the threshold of class society. The discovery of the Dawenkou culture has found the origin of the Longshan culture in Shandong, and also provided important clues for the study of the primitive cultures in the Yellow and Huai River basin and the coastal areas of Shandong and Jiangsu and Zhejiang. Moreover, some individual scholars regard the Dawenkou culture as the culture of primary slave society based on the available information.

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