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A study on the cinnabar-bottomed burials of the early Bronze Age

Guoshuo Zhang / Jun He
Published Online: 2019-12-31 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/char-2019-0012


Bottoming burials with cinnabar emerged in Phase II of the Erlitou Culture of the Xia Dynasty, which might be an important step of the interment ceremony of the Xia people, especially the elites, with the meaning of laying foundations for the burials in order to bless the deceased in the afterworld. This funeral custom became more common, which might be because of the northward expansion of the Erlitou Culture into southern Shanxi that involved absorbing or replacing local cultural elements. In the early Shang Dynasty, cinnabar-bottomed burials continued to exist, which supports the traditional belief that “Shang people followed the regulations of Xia”. By the time of the late Shang Dynasty, the popularity of waist pit burials increased while the ability of the Shang people to control the cinnabar resource declined, and consequently we see fewer cinnabar-bottomed burials.

Keywords: Burials; cinnabar in religion; exorcism; funeral customs and rites–early Bronze Age


The original paper published in Kaogu 考古 (Archaeology) 2018.5:79–89 with four tables is authored by Guoshuo Zhang 张国硕 and Jun He 贺俊. This abridged version is prepared by the authors and translated into English by Rowan Flad 傅罗文.


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About the article

Published Online: 2019-12-31

Published in Print: 2019-11-26

Citation Information: Chinese Archaeology, Volume 19, Issue 1, Pages 163–168, ISSN (Online) 2160-5068, ISSN (Print) 2160-5025, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/char-2019-0012.

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