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A Study on the Waist-pit Burial Custom of Pre-Qin Period

From:Chinese Archaeology NetWriter:Date:2010-07-02

By Guo Zhiwei(PH.D)      Supervisor:Chen Xingcan

Abstract

The “waist-pit” burial ritual was an important custom during the pre-Qin period. Published information about 2372 graves with waist-pits from the pre-Qin period is collected in this dissertation. On the basis of a careful analysis of these data, the history of the waist-pit burial custom in the pre-Qin period is divided into 5 phases: the early period (from prehistoric times through the Erlitou period), the period of development (the early part of the Shang period), the period of prosperity (from the late Shang to early Zhou period), the period of continuity (the Western Zhou period), and the period of decline (the Eastern Zhou Dynasty). Recognizing the diversity of this custom across space and time, this dissertation summarizes the development of the waist-pit burial tradition and its distribution and characteristics in each phase in order to clarify its significance in the pre-Qin period. It presents a comprehensive comparison between burials with waist-pits and those without at nine typical sites representing the different phases (Xichuan Huanglianshu, Yunxian Qinglongquan, Yanshi Erlitou, Zhengzhou Shangcheng, Gaocheng Taixi, Yinxu Guojiazhuang, Fangshan Liulihe, Fengxi Zhangjiapo, and Pingle Yinshanling). This comparison identifies factors that determined the presence or absence of a waist-pit in a burial. In the Shang period, the occurrence of a waist-pit is correlated with the social status of the occupant of the tomb. An individual who possessed high social status during his or her lifetime was likely to have a waist-pit in his or her burial. In the Western Zhou period, the criteria for having a waist-pit are not very clear and may have varied according to clan. In the Eastern Zhou period, the waist-pit burial was related to the social status of the occupant of the tomb. This dissertation proceeds to present a discussion and tentative conclusion concerning the shape, scale, nature, function, and sacrificial aspects, of the waist-pits and the funerary objects they contained,. It traces the source of the waist-pit burial custom observed in the Shang culture. The location of the pit under the burial and the presence of a dog in the pit, which are the consistent features of waist-pit burials from the Shang tombs, have also been observed at earlier sites in the upper reaches of the Han Rive Therefore, this region is a more likely place of origin of this burial custom. In conclusion, the dissertation discusses the significance of the origins of the waist-pit burial custom and the important role played by the southwest part of Henan province in the origins and development of Shang culture.

 


Key Words:  Pre-Qin period, waist-pits, burial custom,social status, dog burials