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Title:Eating identity: food, gender, and social organization in late Neolithic northern China
Author(s):Dong, Yu
Director of Research:Ambrose, Stanley H.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Ambrose, Stanley H.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Underhill, Anne P.; Malhi, Ripan S.; Lucero, Lisa J.
Department / Program:Anthropology
Discipline:Anthropology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):Neolithic China
stable isotope analysis
ancient DNA analysis
complex societies
rice agriculture
food and identity
Kinship
Abstract:The Dawenkou Neolithic Culture (ca. 4300-2600 cal. BC) in Shandong, northern Jiangsu and Anhui Provinces, China, has been intensively investigated because it provides insights into the origin of complex stratified societies. Dawenkou is well known for its extremely elaborate burials indicating incipient social stratification. The initial spread of rice from southern China to the millet agriculture-based societies of the Yellow River Valley, including Dawenkou region, also occurred during this period. Dawenkou is also the assumed critical transitional period during which societies were changing from matrilineal/matriarchal clans to patrilineal/patriarchal families. In this thesis, I shall argue that rice consumption had been used as an important identity marker (including ethnicity, gender, and social status) of individuals at some Dawenkou site, and the introduction of rice possibly facilitated the development of incipient social stratification. I shall also argue that the assumed transition to patrilineal/patriarchal families did not occur simultaneously across all Dawenkou sites. Some late Dawenkou site was still matrilineal, while females seem to have special status than males at some other late Dawenkou site. My thesis focuses on the questions of the relationships among social organization, gender relations, and staple food preferences in identity formation and the development of social complexity in four Dawenkou sites (Dongjiaying, Fujia, Huating, and Liangwangcheng). Key to understanding these questions are the integration of mortuary evidence, radiocarbon dating, stable isotope analysis, and ancient DNA analysis of human remains. My radiocarbon dating results suggest that Liangwangcheng, Fujia, and Huating all date to 2800-2500 cal. BC, while Dongjiaying is a few centuries later (2600-2300 cal. BC). The contemporary nature of these sites permits synchronic and diachronic comparisons of diet composition and burial customs among communities over a few centuries. Despite the contemporaneity there is significant variation in the development of social stratification. Huating seems to be the most stratified with evidence of human sacrifices in some burials. Liangwangcheng also shows signs of social stratification by the lavishness of some burials, and the inclusion of exotic goods that suggest long distance trade. In addition, some females seem to have privilege over others in the community. There is no evidence supporting the hypothesis that a transition to patriarchal families occurred at this late Neolithic site with increasing social complexity. Based on the limited information available, Fujia community seems to be more egalitarian. My stable isotopic analysis of human and faunal remains from these sites suggests that food consumption varied across landscape and among different individuals within sites. Fujia and Dongjiaying human diets were dominated by millets and millet-fed pigs, while Huating and Liangwangcheng people had more diverse diets, including significant amount of C3 plants such as rice and C3-feeding animals and/or aquatic resources. Fujia and Dongjiaying are located further north, and Huating and Liangwangcheng are further south. My dietary reconstruction with stable isotopes, combined with archaeological evidence, supports a model of a late Dawenkou population with well-established millet agriculture that gradually adopted rice that was introduced from southern China and gradually spread north. Contrary to the longstanding conventional assumption that the social organization was patrilineal by late Dawenkou (3000~2600 BC), my ancient DNA analysis results suggest that matrilineal links were quite important at Fujia, and this community was very likely matrilineal. In addition, it seems husbands were not incorporated into their wives’ descent groups at death but were buried with their own matrilineal descent groups instead. This study makes three contributions to anthropological archaeology. First, this research is the first that integrated multidisciplinary approaches, including stable isotope analysis, ancient DNA analysis, and mortuary evidence, in addressing archaeological problems, at least in Chinese archaeology. This approach is potentially applicable in other regions of the world addressing similar or different archaeological problems. It is especially useful for researchers studying prehistoric cultures who often struggle with the lack of detailed written records. Second, this dissertation introduces a new perspective on food studies in late Neolithic China. It tries to understand food consumption in its social context, such as an individual’s gender, social, and ethnic identities. In addition, this study suggests that food consumption practices can play a critical role in marking social differences and facilitating the development of social stratification. Third, this research on the Dawenkou culture demonstrates that there can be significant variations in many regards at different archaeological sites belonging to the same culture, such as food consumption practices, the development of social stratification, and gender relations. We need to carefully examine each site before making assumptions in the future.
Issue Date:2013-08-22
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/45643
Rights Information:Copyright 2013 Yu Dong
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-08-22
2015-08-22
Date Deposited:2013-08


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