The culture of Erlitou 二里頭 is a Chinese culture of the end of the Neolithic at the beginning of the Bronze Age (XXIe - XVIe front century J.C.), which draws its name from one of its sites located at Zhaizhen on the territory of the commune of Yanshi in the Henan. Can be related to its beginnings with the culture of Longshan, it developed with the mid-west of Henan, around the commune of Zhengzhou, along the course of the rivers Yi, Luo, Ying, You as well as run lower of Fen than the south of the Shanxi. At the time of its late phase she knew a certain expansion in the Hubei and the Shaanxi. A hundred important sites are attached to him. She is regarded by the majority of the Chinese archeologists as equivalent with the Dynastie Xia, some considering however that its last phase corresponds already to the beginning of the Dynastie Shang.
HistoryThe first site pertaining to this culture was discovered in 1952 with Yucun in the district of Dengfeng (Henan), the second in 1956 with the Temple of Luoda with Zhengzhou. The name used was then “style of Luoda”. In 1959, Erlitou was located; it is with the discovery on this site in 1960 by Xu Xusheng of the complex palatial of Yanshi, oldest ever put at the day at the time (XVIIe - XIVe front century J.C.), which the concept of “culture of Erlitou appeared” to which are attached from now on nearly a hundred sites. In 1988 Erlitou was declared “cultural heritage national of first importance”.
Site éponymeLocated on northern bank of the old courses of Luo and Yi, it presents an general orientation NO/SE (maximum E-O: 2400m; NS: 1900m). The unit would have been in the beginning vaster than the 3 km ² which was put at the day, but the Luo river while moving in destroyed the northern part. The essential vestiges (palate, workshops, tombs) are on a slightly elevated ground of the south-eastern sector; the western sector is lower. In the east of the site, one located sections of sliced whose 500m was explored; it is thought that the ground having been used with constructions or manufacture of the potteries was extracted from it.
Erlitou seems to have monopolized the manufacture of the objects out of bronze in its last phase, of 1700 with 1550 av. J. - C. It acts of antiquated models to the very thin walls, run the upside down between a compact ground heart and terra cotta segments bearing in hollow the still parsimonious decorative topics. They were neither tools nor of weapons but of ritual crockery. There is a resemblance to the first Shang bronzes, which encourages some to think that the “palates” and workshops belong already to this dynasty. There were also workshops of pottery, whose most typical model is white, in the shape of Chinese hat. Some carry signs symbolic systems or graphs, but there is no trace of a true written form.
Constructions were out of rammed ground. Most remarkable are two (or three, according to certain interpretations) whole of buildings important, complex palatiaux or pertaining to worship, which show characteristics that one will find in the following centuries: general orientation according to the cardinal points, forms general rectangular, symmetrical provision on both sides of a central line, orthogonal squaring of the ways. In front of them four roads are which must be to them former. The first unit discovered in 1960 is dated from the period of junction between Xia and the Shang; the second, located in basement as of 1978 and excavated starting from 2001, would be a little older. He is bordered by a wall and three main roads: two isolated ways E-O of 300m length each one of 400m, and a way NS of 700m in the east, and shared into two by a center lane under which a structure of wood being used for the drainage is. The two units seem moreover have been squared of a network of small ways. The units contain tombs. The five of the second palate which was explored produced a particularly rich furniture: powders cinnabar, bronzes, jades, objects in shell or encrusted with turquoise (of which one in form of dragon), white or glazed potteries.
Xia dynasty?One distinguishes four great levels on the site from Erlitou; bronzes and architecture palatiale characterize levels 3 and 4. Because of its geographical position “central” and dates suggested for the vestiges, which correspond roughly to those given by traditional Chinese historiography for Xia, the culture of Erlitou is identified with this dynasty by the archeologists of popular China. Nevertheless, bronzes and jades of levels 3 and 4 offer a great relationship with their Shang counterparts, just as the position of the bodies in the tombs, also some propose to attach the first two levels to Xia and the two last at the beginning of Shang. Apart from China, while recognizing the importance of this culture, the archeologists are more circumspect as for the attribution of a precise name to the political entity on which it depended. Indeed, no hard copy mentioning the name of the leaders or the dynasty was found.
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