ANCESTOR WORSHIP: AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION OF RITUAL ACTIVITIES IN NEOLITHIC NORTH CHINA BY LIU LI (La Trobe University) Abstract Based on the analysis of burial patterns found at several archaeological sites in the Yellow River valley, this study demonstrates the existence of various forms of ritual practice directed towards ancestors during the Neolithic period. Different ritual behavior revealed in the data clearly indicate the development of the ancestral cult in three respects: (1) the ancestors venerated shifted from collective groups to exclusive individ- uals with high social status; (2) the worshippers who performed the rituals changed from large social organizations at the community level (probably represented by multi- lineage groups) to small social groups at the lineage or family level; and (3) social bene- ciaries of the ritual changed from the entire community to selected social sectors of the whole, mainly lineages or families with high social status. Ancestor worship in ancient China, therefore, can be characterized by two basic forms, “group ancestor worship” and “individual ancestor worship,” with a number of variations within the two. The former form may have been associated with an egalitarian social organization, and the latter seems to have deeply in uenced
Journal of East Asian Archaeology – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 2000
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