A distinctive feature of the Longshan culture was the high level of skill in pottery making, including the use of pottery wheels, producing thin-walled and polished black pottery. This pottery was widespread in North China, and also found in the Yangtze River valley and as far as the southeastern coast.

The first archaeological find of this culture took place at the Chengziya Archaeological Site in 1928, with the first excavations in 1930 and 1931. The culture is named after the nearby modern town of Longshan (“Dragon Mountain”) in Zhangqiu, Shandong.

The center of Shandong is a mountainous area, including Mount Tai (1,545 m) and other several other peaks over 1000 m. Longshan settlements are found on the plains surrounding this massif.

The largest sites yet found in Shandong are Liangchengzhen and Yaowangcheng.

Excavations at Liangchengzhen found that rice, foxtail millet, broomcorn millet and wheat were grown. Foxtail millet was the most important crop in terms of the amount grown, however it was primarily used for animal fodder.

Rice was the preferred food for human consumption. Rice grains have been found in Shandong and southern Henan, and a small rice field has been found on the Liaodong peninsula. Specialized tools for digging, harvesting and grinding grain have been recovered.

The most common source of meat was the pig. Sheep and goats were apparently domesticated in the Loess Plateau area in the 4th millennium BC, found in western Henan by 2800 BC, and then spread across the middle and lower Yellow River area. Dogs were also eaten, particularly in Shandong, though cattle were less important.

Small-scale production of silk by raising and domesticating the silkworm in early sericulture was also known.

The late period (2600 to 2000 BC) of the Longshan culture in the middle Yellow River area is contemporaneous with the classic Shandong Longshan culture.

Several regional variants of the late middle Yellow River Longshan have been identified, including Wangwan III in western Henan, Hougang II in northern Henan and southern Hebei, Taosi in the Fen River basin in southern Shanxi, and several clusters on the middle reaches of the Jing River and Wei River collectively known as Kexingzhuang II or the Shaanxi Longshan.

Remains have been found in Shaanxi and southern Henan of scapulae of cattle, pigs, sheep and deer that were heated as a form of divination. Evidence of human sacrifice becomes more common in Shaanxi and the Central Plain in the late Longshan period.

Longshan Culture is identified as a late Neolithic culture in the middle and lower Yellow River valley areas of northern China from about 3000 to 1900 BC.

The culture was noted for its highly polished black pottery (or egg-shell pottery). The population expanded dramatically during the 3rd millennium BC, with many settlements having rammed earth walls. It decreased in most areas around 2000 BC until the central area evolved into the Bronze Age Erlitou culture.

Towards the end of the 3rd millennium BC, the population decreased sharply in most of the region and many of the larger centres were abandoned, possibly due to environmental change linked to the end of the Holocene Climatic Optimum. This was matched by the disappearance of high-quality black pottery found in ritual burials.

In contrast, there was a rapid growth of population and social complexity in the basin of the Yi and Luo rivers of central Henan, culminating in the Erlitou culture. The material culture in this area shows a continuous development, through a Xinzhai phase centred on the Song Mountains immediately to the south. In the Taosi area, however, there is no such continuity between Longshan and Erlitou material culture, suggesting a collapse in that area and later expansion from the Erlitou core area.

By staff editor


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