Episode 3 Early China and the Mysterious Xia
Foundations of Chinese Civilization
Dr Craig Benjamin (2013)
Benjamin begins this lecture by discussing the remains of 40 Homo erectus skeletons discovered in China over the last century. This is the first evidence that pre-human hominids migrated from Africa to Asia long before the first human beings emerged. Archeological evidence suggests they had discovered fire.
The oldest human remains from China date from 100,000 BC. Like early human migrants elsewhere, these were hunter gatherers living in small groups and using infanticide and senicide to limit group size. Like hunter gatherers elsewhere, they worshiped spirits associated with nature and their ancestors.
Over time, however, like early humans elsewhere, they began growing food and living in larger communities.
China’s Neolithic (late Stone Age) Era dates from roughly 8,000 – 3,000 BC and there is evidence of agriculture along it’s major rivers by 7,000 BC. The main crop along the northern Yellow River was millet and along the southern Yangtze River was rice. There is also evidence of domestication of chickens, pigs, silkworms and horses (originally domesticated on the Eurasian Steppes – see https://archive.org/details/horsewheelandlanguage).
By 4,000 BC, there’s evidence of different neolithic cultures trading with one another. By 3,000 BC, there’s evidence they’re waging war against war with one another.
In 2100 BC, the first (Xia) hereditary dynasty formed after “great King Yu” bequeathed his throne to his son Xi. The territory ruled by the Xia Dynasty consisted mainly of farmland with a number of substantial villages and a few urban centers. Xia artisans mastered the use of bronze and jade carving, as well as creating a calendar noting lunar and solar movement. Owing to their ability to communicate with the spirit world, Xia kings also served as shamans.
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