On October 25-27, archaeologists from China and North America attended the international conference “Early Cities and Economy: The Development of Urbanism, Regional Politics, and Economic Networks in the Shandong Peninsula before the Rise of Empire” hosted by the Tang Center for Early China at Columbia University. The event was cosponsored by the Tang Center for Early China at Columbia University, the Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University, Shandong University, Shandong Academy of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, and the Institute of Archaeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Additional funding was received from the CCK Foundation Inter-University Center for Sinology, Harvard University.
In the evening of October 25, the opening ceremony of the conference was held at the World Room of Pulitzer Hall. Prof. Li Feng, Faculty Director of the Tang Center hosted the ceremony and welcomed scholars and the general public to Columbia University and the conference. Prof. Shang Wei, Chair of the Dept. of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University, Prof. Liu Yanchang, Deputy Director, representing Prof. Zheng Tongxiu, Director of Shandong Academy of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Prof. Fang Hui, Dean of School of History and Culture, Shandong University, and Prof. Anne Underhill, Chair of the Dept. of Anthropology, Yale University offered congratulatory remarks to the conference respectively.
This conference discussed and examined the important archeological discoveries in Shandong over the past twenty years with a focus on the development of early cities and their economic activities. The participants discussed evidence for economic activities such as agriculture and different kinds of craft production at individual sites and within distinctive regions. They also explored new directions in research, including methodological advancements in fieldwork and analysis. The conference presented a selected series of important archaeological projects that centered on settlements and urban archeology in Shandong from the Neolithic period to the late Bronze-Age, and discussed their significance for understanding early cities and their economies.
Panel One: Regional Settlement System and Cultural Background, chaired by Anne Underhill
The first panel focused on the local population, settlement systems, and cultural background of the region. Dr. Gary Feinman from the Field Museum shared the results of a series of survey projects conducted in coastal Shandong, showing the trajectory of local population change from the early Neolithic to the Han (ca.7000BCE-220AD) and the correlation between politics and population. Prof. Luan Fengshi from Shandong University compared late Neolithic (ca.3100-2000BCE) walled cities discovered in the coastal region and suggested that early cities developed within the sequence from simple settlement to settlement with a moat, walled settlement with a moat, and finally double walled settlement. Dr. Han Hui from the Shandong Academy of Cultural Relics and Archaeology pointed out that the site of Guicheng in the Jiaodong Peninsula, established by Zhou for managing the far east, accelerated the social and the cultural change in the region. Prof. Li Min of UCLA brought a different approach by proposing that social memory and shared stories also affected the establishment of early cities.
Panel Two: Changes in Early City Organization, chaired by Luan Fengshi
The second panel introduced changes in early city organization and discoveries related to Shandong. Prof. Wang Fen from Shandong University presented a newly discovered large settlement site dated mainly to the middle Neolithic period (ca.5200-4500BCE) in the site of Jiaojia, Jinan, which sheds new lights on the local landscape and social system. Dr. Liang Zhonghe from the Institute of Archaeology, CASS and Dr. Liu Yanchang from the Shandong Academy of Cultural Relics and Archaeology discussed recent excavation progress from two other Neolithic sites, Yaowangcheng and Dantu. The two sites both have walls and moats, reflecting the complex social structures and the regional cultures in the late Neolithic period (ca.3100-2200BCE). Prof. Fang Hui from Shandong University differentiated Eastern Barbarians and Shang people according to their different sacrificial practices by reexamining two oracle inscriptions related to “the king of East Barbarians.”
Panel Three: Late Bronze-Age Cities and Economy, chaired by Liu Yanchang
The third panel centered on the significance of the region in the Bronze Age, namely the period of Western Zhou (ca.1045-771BCE) expansion and Eastern Zhou (770-221BCE) hegemony and territorial competence. Dr. Tang Jinqiong from the Institute of Archaeology, CASS compared bronze vessels from Shandong and Jiangsu and showed that different local attitudes toward foreign culture in the two regions led to the different bronze cultures. Dr. Liu Yanchang introduced the city site of Lu and its significance in the long term. Dr. Ma Zhimin from Shandong Longkou Museum introduced the preservation plan for the Guicheng city-site.
Panel Four: Consumption and Production: Early Cities and the Regional Economic Network, chaired by Fang Hui
The fourth panel discussed economic production, distribution, and consumption of local products, including sea salt, stone tools, bone artifacts, and crops. Prof. Anne Underhill from Yale University shared her research in a settlement area of Liangchengzhen and suggested the appearance of some craft specialization in local production in the late Neolithic (ca.2600-2200BCE). Prof. Chen Xuexiang from Shandong University used the distribution of “barbarian style” tureens and clay vessels that are believed to be the carrier or measurement of salt to reconstruct the exchange network of salt in the late Shang period (ca.1250-1045BCE). Prof. Roderick Campbell from ISAW, New York University presented his experiments on bone artifact production and pointed out that in the late Shang period, some workshops were able to efficiently mass produce specific products and distribute them to regions where local workshops existed but worked on products other than those from mass production. Prof. Gary Crawford of University of Toronto (Mississauga) presented his paleoethnobotanical research in Liangchengzhen, suggesting that rice was a major crop in agriculture.
The conference successfully brought scholars from China and North America into dialogue and further inspired new questions and research directions. The specific focus on a single region also allows attendees to have more-in-depth conversations and thus the discussion of each panel was lively and insightful. The event not only enabled scholars to exchange information and research achievements but also set up new networks and lay the foundations for future collaboration and studies.