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Erlitou Site


The Erlitou Site, which dates back about 3,500 to 3,600 years ago, is located along the banks of the Luo River in the south of Erlitou Village in Yanshi County, Henan Province.

Discovered in 1959, the Erlitou Site is rich in a culture typical of the period; Erlitou Culture was, in turn, named after the area.

The site is divided into four periods, each with an area of three square kilometers. Remains of two palaces, a residential area, pottery and bronze workshops, and kilns and tombs were excavated at the site.

One of the palaces, which experts believe provided the foundation for Chinese palace architecture, is square in shape and measures 108 meters from east to west, 100 meters from south to north and 0.8 meters in height. Its front yard covers an area of 5,000 square meters, and winding corridors can be found on all four sides of the site.

Cultural relics, such as bronze ware, jade, pottery, stone, bone and mussel wares were unearthed at Erlitou, including the Jue (an ancient wine vessel with three legs and a loop handle), which, so far, has been the earliest bronze vessel ever excavated in China. The exquisite beast-headed bronze plate embedded with turquoise stones reveals a mastery of the enchasing technique.

According to archaeological studies, the Erlitou Site, which existed during the same period as the Xia Dynasty (21st-16th century BC), provides important material for the study of the Xia culture.

There are two schools of thought regarding the relationship between the Erlitou Site and the Xia culture at present. One says that the first and second periods of the site are the deposits from the Xia culture, while the third and fourth periods are the deposit of Bo Capital of the Shang Dynasty (16th-11th century BC). According to the second theory, the Erlitou Site is the city site of the Late Xia Dynasty.

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