Ceramic Craft Specialization and the Development of Social Hierarchy in Late Neolithic Northwestern China (ca. 5300-4050 B.P.)


Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Grants to Individuals in East and Southeast Asian Archaeology and Early History Dissertation Fellowships (North America)


Art History and Archaeology


Potters from late Neolithic Majiayao (5300-4650 BP), Banshan (4650-4350 BP), and machang (4350-4050 BP) phases in northwestern China have left us tens of thousands of painted pots decorated with intricate designs, representing one of the most impressive examples of craft production among non-state level societies in human history. Among their other uses, ceramic vessels were increasingly used to honor the deceased during this period. Although it is still unclear if, or how often, certain kinds of pots unearthed from these graves were made specifically for funeral use, the growing disparity in the number of burial pots among graves has signified emerging social difference among their owners. What, if any, are the causal relationships between this intense pottery production and the rise of competing elites during this period? Through contextual study, formal comparison, first hand observation, and physicochemical analysis, this dissertation investigates how pottery production, consumption, and distribution facilitated the development of social hierarchy in late Neolithic northwestern China.