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Humanities LibreTexts

3.6: Longshan (3000 BCE – 1700 BCE)

  • Page ID
    31784
  • The Longshan culture was composed of multiple Neolithic communities inhabiting the valleys along the Yellow River in northern China. The river brought the torrential waters from the Himalayan mountains, both flooding the valleys and bringing the silt to create the fertile farmland. Additional cultural groups existed in other areas of today’s China, beyond Longshan during this period, and each had its unique characteristics. The Longshan were productive farmers, and historians excavated significant numbers of farming tools used to harvest and prepare millet and rice to support the growing populations.

    From 2600 to 2000 BCE, the small towns became overly populated, and communities grew outward, building additional settlements, each of the villages surrounded with walls made of rammed earth. Archaeologists noted a potential conflict between settlements forcing the need for some sort of protection. Constructing with rammed earth was the preferred method of building any structure, houses, walls, or civic buildings. Wooden frames outlined the building, and small rocks and dirt were inserted between the frames and tamped down, making a thick, sturdy wall. This model of rammed earth wall construction became the model for the early sections of the Great Wall of China (3.30).

    JiayuguanWall.jpg3.30 Early section of the Great Wall of China 

    Remnants of silk fabric found in tombs led historians to believe this was the period when the production of silk began on small farms. Specialized tools to create silk thread excavated at archeological sites show the beginning of the long-term dominance of China’s silk industry that expanded later on the well-known silk road.

    The quality of the surviving pottery from this period was exceptional and unusual for Neolithic cultures. Pottery was created in multiple sizes and shapes using a quick speed potters’ wheel. Archaeologists also found multiple updraft kilns, an advanced model for Neolithic cultures, and helping produce the unique Longshan black pottery (3.31) in mass production. The particular goblet represents another achievement, very thin goblets in multiple forms; a flared brim on the top, the cup, and a multiple-shaped stem. Known as eggshell pottery (3.32), it was highly polished and served as an example of their advancement using the high-speed wheel.

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    3.31 Black pottery 
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    3.32 Eggshell goblet 

    The Longshan and other settlements in China started many of the unique advancements of the Neolithic period. They created mass manufacturing techniques, developed a new material for fabric and clothing, built secure walls and buildings, and had a stratified society and military.