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Provisioning a Pilgrimage Center: Land Use and Settlement Patterns in Niuheliang, Liaoning, China

Chen, Hsi-Wen (2023) Provisioning a Pilgrimage Center: Land Use and Settlement Patterns in Niuheliang, Liaoning, China. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The remarkable concentration of ceremonial facilities combined with evidence of a decent occupation at Niuheliang, a Hongshan-period ceremonial complex, indicates its special role as a pilgrimage center in the macro-regional integration that had characterized ancient societies in northeastern China from around 4500 to 3000 BCE. Even if this conceptualization of Niuheliang is consistent with the widely acknowledged notion that Hongshan socio-political organization at all scales was based on religion and ritual, this system had to be supported by a subsistence economy working to feed a growing population. The mountainous landscape surrounding Niuheliang would have posed a problem for its residents, a decent portion of whom were non-farming ritual specialists, to sustain themselves on the unpromising lands around the pilgrimage center. This study investigates patterns of settlement distribution through time in relation to agricultural strategies in Chifeng, the Upper Daling Valley, and Niuheliang, three systematically surveyed areas in the Western Liao Valley, with special attention given to Hongshan times. Results of settlement analysis show that the normal Hongshan human-land relationship was seriously altered at and nearby the pilgrimage center as a result of the need to provision the residents and visitors there. In Chifeng and the Upper Daling Valley, Hongshan people took risk management into serious consideration when choosing where to live. In Niuheliang, on the other hand, proximity to the pilgrimage center was an important factor in deciding settlement location as the transportation of food on a regular basis depended heavily on distance. An attempt to estimate Hongshan absolute agricultural production also strongly suggests a provisioning relationship between the pilgrimage center and the main provisioning community located to the southwest, but not far from it. In addition to providing empirical support to the model of Hongshan macro-regional integration, this study also explores how settlement patterns in relation to agricultural strategies changed through time along with fluctuating population levels and climatic conditions. Systematic settlement analyses reveal an incredible degree of inter-regional variability in how social dynamics developed in idiosyncratic yet sensible ways and produced unique patterns of settlement distribution, which encourages a comparative approach for those pondering questions of social change.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Chen, Hsi-Wenhsc40@pitt.eduhsc400009-0006-0984-9758
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairDrennan, Robert
Committee MemberBermann,
Committee MemberArkush,
Committee MemberPeterson, Christian
Committee MemberMostern,
Date: 11 May 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 17 February 2023
Approval Date: 11 May 2023
Submission Date: 5 April 2023
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 196
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Anthropology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: hongshan, archaeology, survey
Date Deposited: 11 May 2023 19:24
Last Modified: 11 May 2023 19:24

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  • Provisioning a Pilgrimage Center: Land Use and Settlement Patterns in Niuheliang, Liaoning, China. (deposited 11 May 2023 19:24) [Currently Displayed]


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