A grave matter: linking pastoral economies and identities in the Upper Xiajiadian culture (1200-600 BCE), China

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The transition to the Upper Xijiadian period (1200–600BCE) in north-east China is often connected with the decline of agricultural settled life and the adoption of mobile pastoralism. Many see a deterioration of climatic circumstances as the reason for this change, while others have argued that this model is an oversimplification of the intricate socio-economic dynamics of the time. The extent and manner in which pastoralism was incorporated into the economy is still a matter of debate. This paper presents the results of the analysis conducted on grave location preference in the landscape, using data collected by the Chifeng international collaborative survey project. I argue that burial landscapes provide important insights into the discussion on Upper Xiajiadian pastoralism, both economically and symbolically. Based on these results, I suggest that mortuary practices may have reinforced the desire to practice pastoralism as an initially secondary economic strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-146
Number of pages14
JournalWorld Archaeology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I am grateful to the CICRP for allowing me to be part of the project, both in the field and working on its reports. I am indebted to Gideon Shelach who provided excellent feedback on a first draft of this paper as well as helpful suggestions on how to frame it. My thanks are also due to the anonymous reviewers for their input and Sarah Semple’s efforts in making the final paper clearer and stronger. The research presented here, and any shortcomings, remain my own.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, © 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Bronze Age China
  • agropastoralism
  • mortuary analysis
  • social identity
  • spatial analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (all)


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