Archaeological Indicators for Chinese Early States: A Case Study of Taosi in Shanxi

Author: He Nu
Journal: Social Evolution & History. Volume 17, Number 2 / September 2018


The Chinese archaeologists have researched cities and capitals of historic periods for several decades. They have established a methodology for capital site archaeology that focuses on the micro-settlement patterns of the capital of a certain kingdom or dynasty. As a primary center of a monarchy or kingdom, the capital might be formed with a set of principal features such as palaces, royal tombs, monumental buildings including ceremonial constructions, executive storage areas, executive craft manufacturing zones, common residences, and fortifications (such as walls/ramparts and moats). The author of the present article believes that the diagnostic features of capital cities identified through Chinese capital site archaeological theory can also serve as archaeological indicators for early states in prehistoric China. Over the past three decades, archaeological work at the site of Taosi has yielded remarkable evidence from studies of settlement organization and cognitive archaeology that can be used to demonstrate where and when the early states formed in China.