Jiangzhai: Social and economic organization of a Middle Neolithic Chinese village

Christian E. Peterson*, Gideon Shelach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


The Early Yangshao period (5000-4000 BC) village of Jiangzhai is the most completely excavated and reported of any early agricultural community in the middle reaches of northern China's Yellow River Valley. This comprehensive dataset can better our understanding of early agricultural village societies and complex society development, especially the emergence of economic inequality. Analyses of Jiangzhai's architectural remains and their arrangement; estimates of household population, storage capacity, and animal consumption; and analyses of household artifact assemblages are used to reconstruct the social and economic organization of this important Neolithic settlement. Our analyses suggest that differences in economic organization at the household level are responsible for patterns of intra-settlement economic differentiation previously attributed to higher-order "corporate" institutions. Rather than a segmental society composed of redundant homologous units, Jiangzhai displays substantial variability among residential sectors and constituent households in terms of activity emphases and surplus accumulation. Substantial intrasite variation in socioeconomic organization has previously been thought characteristic only of more complex Late Neolithic societies in the middle Yellow River Valley region.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)265-301
Number of pages37
JournalJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • China
  • Jiangzhai
  • Neolithic
  • Sociocultural change
  • Socioeconomic organization
  • Yangshao
  • Yellow River Valley


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