Initial insights into ceramic production and exchange at the early Bronze Age citadel at Shimao
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Over the last decade, excavations at the late Neolithic to early Bronze Age site of Shimao in northern Shaanxi Province have transformed our understanding of the archaeology of early China. What was previously seen as an area that was peripheral to the development of early dynastic centers in northern China is now being heralded by some scholars as a precursor of Chinese civilization. However, despite incredible finds of large-scale stone architecture, bronze working, thousands of jade artifacts, and elaborate stone carvings, our overall understanding of the economic and political organization of the inhabitants of Shimao is still very limited. In this study we examine the most common artifact class at the site, pottery, using petrographic analysis, in order to explore production methods as well as potential production organization and exchange. As our results demonstrate, most of the pottery used at Shimao was likely produced locally, potentially by multiple production groups at or near the site, but the ceramics were not particularly standardized in regard to paste recipes. These results likely reflect that ceramic production was not tightly controlled or formalized, but instead took place in local households or workshops, much like ceramic production in many other parts of northern China at the time.