Christian E. Peterson, PhD
and Undergraduate Advisor
I am an archaeologist specializing in the comparative study of early complex societies (or "chiefdoms"), with a geographic focus on prehistoric northeastern Asia (China, Korea, and Japan). My methodological foci include regional settlement pattern survey and analysis; regional palaeodemography; household archaeology; quantitative and spatial analysis (including CAD/GIS); artifact assemblage analysis; zooarchaeology; and site taphonomy.
I received my BA in Anthropology from the University of Toronto (1999), and my MA (2005) and Ph.D. (2006) in Anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh.
Dr. Christian Peterson delivers a public lecture ("Kin, Crafts and Co-residence in Neolithic North China [7000–2800 BC])" for the Hawai'i chapter of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), May 6, 2010. From UH Videos on Vimeo.
My field research focuses on explaining the emergence and development of Neolithic Hongshan period (4500-3000 BC) chiefly communities in NE China. I previously directed the Hongshan Intra-Community Archaeological Research Project (HICARP) at Fushanzhuang in the Chifeng region of eastern Inner Mongolia. I am currently senior co-PI of the Liaoning Hongshan Period Community Project (LHPCP), working at Dongshanzui in western Liaoning, and a research associate with the Chifeng International Collaborative Archaeological Research Project (CICARP). My research has been financially supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society, the University of Pittsburgh, and the American Council of Learned Societies/the Henry Luce Foundation.
The Hongshan Intra-Community Archaeological Research Project (HICARP)
Systematic regional-scale settlement survey of some 783 km2 in the Chifeng region of eastern Inner Mongolia from 1998-2004 documented changes in the distribution of settlements and population across the landscape for eight archaeological periods spanning some 7000 years (Chifeng 2003; Peterson 2006). Analysis of this regional data has revealed that Hongshan period (4500-3000 BC) occupation was organized into at least 15 supra-local communities or districts within the Chifeng survey area (Peterson and Drennan 2005). These districts, which are without antecedents in the region, are small but strongly centralized, composed of as many as 10 villages or hamlets not exceeding 1000 total inhabitants. Each is separated from others by open or more sparsely settled areas. There is no indication of any larger or better positioned district that dominated others, so each appears to have been a small independent polity of the sort often labeled "chiefdoms". At the center of some of these districts are settlements with concentrations of mounded burials and public non-burial platforms that provide more direct evidence for social hierarchy.
In 2004, I undertook an intensive 35 ha systematic survey of Fushanzhuang, the central place of one of the Hongshan districts previously identified from settlement pattern data. During this survey evidence of the community's constituent households were located, appearing as dense clusters of domestic artifacts clearly offset from other such clusters on the surface. These households were arranged around an open central plaza, its corners marked by a group of burial mounds and non-burial platforms. About 30 households were later raked to increase artifact exposure, and more than 20,000 ceramic and lithic artifacts (including minute debitage) were collected for analysis. Such a large sample of household assemblages, each composed of 100s or even 1000s of artifacts, enabled me to talk very confidently about differences in household activities and in patterns of inter-household interaction represented (Peterson 2006).
From analysis of the lithic artifacts collected I identified four distinct economic emphases--or modest "specializations"--among households at Fushanzhuang. These emphases included initial tool production, tool finishing, tertiary tool production/maintenance, and agricultural production. Additional analyses of lithic reduction provided corroboration for these different activities. From analyses of ceramic decoration, paste, and vessel type, I inferred the presence of differences in both prestige and wealth accumulation between households, two dimensions of social ranking that did not correlate with one another. I also found that economic specialization was not associated with higher prestige at Fushanzhuang. Most of Fushanzhuang's more prestigious households were among its least specialized in terms of their activities, and nearly all were also among its least wealthy. In contrast, the most specialized households--especially those engaged in stone tool production--tended to be among the community's wealthiest. Only a very few of these, however, also appear to have enjoyed higher than average social standing. Economic specialization, then, seems to have been connected to wealth accumulation at Fushanzhuang but not particularly to higher prestige. More prestigious households tended to be located nearest the plaza and its associated monuments. Wealthier households were, with a single exception, located farther from the plaza and concentrated in a lower lying portion of the community. The majority of Fushanzhuang's households, however, belonged neither to the more prestigious group nor to the wealthier group; their residences were located farthest from the plaza and show the least evidence for specialized activities.
Individuals buried in the community's few mounded tombs were probably among Fushanzhuang's more prestigious residents. Although we did not excavate any of these tombs, those that have been excavated elsewhere in northeastern China have invariably contained but a few jade artifacts carved in supernatural themes. This paucity of offerings does not seem at all connected to wealth accumulation, as might otherwise be expected were the occupants of these tombs members of economically specialized households like those identified at Fushanzhuang. The more common earthen pit and stone-slab graves of the Hongshan period do, however, contain highly variable quantities of domestic artifacts and personal ornaments. Members of Fushanzhuang's wealthy and more specialized households may have instead been buried in much simpler graves of this sort with higher than average amounts of largely utilitarian goods. These kinds of graves would not have been detected during surface survey. The emphasis in pit burials on the material conditions of daily life contrasts with the ritualistic emphasis of jade-bearing mounded tombs. The basis of Hongshan period prestige may have therefore lain in the supernatural realm, and the higher prestige residents of Fushanzhuang may have been leaders of rituals for which its public architecture was built. This would be consistent with the presence of two distinct social spheres, a line of reasoning that would recognize in Hongshan society two separate co-extant social hierarchies: one based on the accumulation of wealth via economic specialization, the other based on ritual authority (Drennan and Peterson 2006). Such an account of Hongshan social dynamics brings into play two of the four most often listed bases of social power (ideology and economic control, but not military or political power). It raises questions about the degree of integration of ideology and economics in Hongshan society, and thus places it in an especially interesting comparative position vis-a-vis other early complex societies in which these elements vary in importance and modes of interaction.
The Liaoning Hongshan Period Community Project (LHPCP)
The ritual and mortuary monuments of the Hongshan period cultural core zone of western Liaoning Province in NE China testify to the emergence of societies with social inequalities and sizeable organized labor forces. In contrast to the Hongshan periphery (which includes Chifeng), the nature of the communities that built and utilized the impressive monuments of the core zone remains undocumented. The monumental expression of the Hongshan "culture" is more developed in the core zone (at sites like Niuheliang, Dongshanzui, and Hutougou) than in the periphery, but it is not at all clear what social, political, economic, or ideological forces produced this development. The Liaoning Hongshan Period Community Project is in the process of documenting much more fully the nature of Hongshan core zone communities through a combination field methodologies that include regional-scale settlement survey, intensive surface collection, remote sensing, and test excavation. These communities may have been larger, more centralized, or more hierarchical than peripheral communities, such as in Chifeng. They may have had different or more intensive craft specializations. Prestige and wealth may have been separable dimensions of social ranking, as at Fushanzhuang, or they may have been combined to form a single dimension. There may have been more resource pressure or a greater degree of control over prime resources. Such differences (among others) between core and peripheral Hongshan communities are the key to evaluating the importance of the roles played by different factors in producing the seemingly higher degree of development in the core zone and thus to understanding better the forces driving the development of Hongshan social complexity more generally. Such an understanding will make it possible to position Hongshan society usefully in the broader comparative study of early complex societies, which, it is becoming ever clearer, took a variety of shapes and followed highly varied trajectories of development.
Peer-Reviewed Articles/Book Chapters
2012 Peterson, Christian E. Doing Regional Archaeological Settlement Patterns Survey in Northeast China. Short “From the Field” feature appearing in the textbook by Michael Chazan, Archaeology and Prehistory: Pathways Through Time, 2nd Canadian Edition, pp. 354–355. Pearson Education Canada, Toronto.
2012 Drennan, Robert D., Timothy Earle, Gary M. Feinman, Roland Fletcher, Michael J. Kolb, Peter Peregrine, Christian E. Peterson, Carla Sinopoli, Michael E. Smith, Monica L. Smith, Barbara L. Stark, and Miriam T. Stark. Comparative Archaeology: A Commitment to Understanding Variation. In The Comparative Archaeology of Complex Societies, Michael E. Smith (Editor), pp. 1–3. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
2012 Drennan, Robert D., and Christian E. Peterson. Challenges for Comparative Study of Early Complex Societies. In The Comparative Archaeology of Complex Societies, Michael E. Smith (Editor), pp. 62–87. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
2012 Peterson, Christian E., and Robert D. Drennan. Patterned Variation in Regional Trajectories of Community Growth. In The Comparative Archaeology of Complex Societies, Michael E. Smith (Editor), pp. 88–137. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
2011 Drennan, Robert. D., Bryan K. Hanks, and Christian E. Peterson. The Comparative Study of Chiefly Communities in the Eurasian Steppe Region. Journal of Social Evolution and History 10(1):12–48. (Chiefdoms: Theories, Problems, and Comparisons [Special Issue].)
2010 Drennan, Robert D., Christian E. Peterson, and Jake R. Fox. Degrees and Kinds of Inequality. In Pathways to Power, T. D. Price and G. M. Feinman (Eds.), pp. 45–76.Springer, New York.
2010 Lu Xueming, Christian E. Peterson, Robert D. Drennan, and Zhu Da. 中美合作大凌河上游流域 田野考古调查报告 (Zhong-mei hezuo Dalinghe shangyou liuyu tianye kaogu diaocha baogao [Report of Sino-U.S. Cooperative Archaeological Field Survey along the Upper Reaches of the Daling River]). 考古 (Kaogu) 2010(5):24–35. (In Chinese)
2010 Peterson, Christian E., Lu Xueming, Robert D. Drennan, and Zhu Da. Hongshan Chiefly Communities in Neolithic Northeastern China. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS): 5756–5761.
2010 Peterson, Christian E., and Gideon Shelach. The Evolution of Yangshao Period Village Organization in the Middle Reaches of Northern China's Yellow River Valley. In Becoming Villagers, M. S. Bandy and J. R. Fox (Eds.), University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
2009 Drennan, Robert D., and Christian E. Peterson. La Comunidad y el Cacicazgo: Un Estudio Comparativo de Patrones de Asentamiento Regional en el Alto Magdalena, el Valle de Oaxaca, y Mongolia Interior. In Economía y Política en las Sociedades Precapitalistias, C. A. Sánchez (Ed.), pp. 168–205. Instituto Colombiano de Antropología, Bogotá.
2009 Peterson, Christian E., Katheryn M. Linduff, Ta La, Robert D. Drennan, Zhu Yanping, Gideon Shelach, Guo Zhizhong, Teng Mingyu, and Zhang Yaqiang. Lower Xiajiadian Period Demography and Sociopolitical Organization—Some Results of Collaborative Regional Settlement Patterns Research in NE China. SAA Archaeological Record, May 2009, Volume 9, No. 3, pp. 32–35.
2008 Drennan, Robert D., and Christian E. Peterson. Centralized Communities, Population, and Social Complexity After Sedentarization. In The Neolithic Demographic Transition and its Consequences, J.-P. Bocquet-Appel (Ed.), pp. 359–386. Springer, New York.
2006 Drennan, Robert D., and Christian E. Peterson. Patterned Variation in Prehistoric Chiefdoms. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 103(11):3960–3967.
2006 Drennan, Robert D., Dale W. Quattrin, and Christian E. Peterson. Distributional Patterns: Resources, Polities, and Communities. In Prehispanic Chiefdoms in the Valle de la Plata, Volume 5: Regional Settlement Patterns / Cacicazgo Prehispánicos del Valle fe la Plata, Tomo 5: Patrones de Asentamiento Regionales, R. D. Drennan (Ed.), pp. 99 –154. University of Pittsburgh Memoirs in Latin American Archaeology, No. 16.
2005 Peterson, Christian E., and Robert D. Drennan. Communities, Settlements, Sites, and Survey: Regional-Scale Analysis of Prehistoric Human Interaction. American Antiquity 70(1):5–30.
2005 Drennan, Robert D., and Christian E. Peterson. Early Chiefdom Communities Compared: The Settlement Pattern Record for Chifeng, the Alto Magdalena, and the Valley of Oaxaca. In Subsistence, Settlement, and Social Complexity, R. E. Blanton (Ed.), pp. 119–154. Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, UCLA, Los Angeles.
2004 Drennan, Robert D., and Christian E. Peterson. Comparing Archaeological Settlement Systems with Rank-Size Graphs: A Measure of Shape and Statistical Confidence. Journal of Archaeological Science 31(5):533-549.
2004 Drennan, Robert D., and Christian E. Peterson. 早 期酋长制群体的聚落形态比较研究—内蒙古东部，安第斯山北部和美洲中部三个地区为例。(Zaoqi Qiuchangzhi Qunti de Juluo Xingtai Bijiao Yanjiu—Yi Neimenggu Dongbu, Andisishan Beibu he Meizhou Zhongbu San ge Diqu Weili [Comparative Research on Settlement Patterns of Early Chiefdom Communities: Eastern Inner Mongolia, the Northern Andes, and Mesoamerica].) 吉林大学社会科学学报 (Jilin Daxue Shehui Kexue Xuebao) 2004(5):15–31. (In Chinese.)
2003 Drennan, Robert D., Christian E. Peterson, Gregory G. Indrisano, Teng Mingyu, Gideon Shelach, Zhu Yanping, Katheryn M. Linduff, and Guo Zhizhong. Approaches to Regional Demographic Reconstruction. (区域性人口规模重建之尝试). In Regional Archeology in Eastern Inner Mongolia: A Methodological Exploration (内蒙古东部（赤峰）区域考古调查阶段性报告), Chifeng International Collaborative Archaeological Research Project [Eds.]), pp. 62–72/152–165. Science Press, Beijing. (In Chinese and English.)
2003 Drennan, Robert D., Teng Mingyu, Christian E. Peterson, Gideon Shelach, Gregory G. Indrisano, Zhu Yanping, Katheryn M. Linduff, Guo Zhizhong, and Manuel A. Roman-Lacayo. Methods for Archaeological Settlement Study (聚落考古研究的实践). In Regional Archeology in Eastern Inner Mongolia: A Methodological Exploration (内蒙古东部（赤峰）区域考古调查阶段性报告), Chifeng International Collaborative Archaeological Research Project [Eds.]), pp. 39–61/122–151. Science Press, Beijing. (In Chinese and English.)
2003 Peterson, Christian E., Chen Shen, Chun Chen, Wanyong Chen and Yingjun Tang. Taphonomy of an Early Pleistocene Archaeofauna from Xiaochangliang, Nihewan Basin, North China. In Current Research in Chinese Pleistocene Archaeology, C. Shen and S. G. Keates (Eds.), pp. 79–94. BAR International Series 1179. Oxford, UK.
In press Chifeng International Collaborative Archaeological Research Project (Editors). Settlement Patterns in the Chifeng Region. Center for Comparative Archaeology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh.
2006 Peterson, Christian E. "Crafting" Hongshan Communities? Household Archaeology in the Chifeng Region of Eastern Inner Mongolia, PRC. Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh.
2003 Chifeng International Collaborative Archaeological Research Project (Editors). 内蒙古东部（赤峰）区域考古调查阶段性报告。(Neimenggu Dongbu [Chifeng] Quyu Kaogu Diaocha Jieduan Xing Baogao. [Regional Archeology in Eastern Inner Mongolia: A Methodological Exploration].) Science Press, Beijing. (In Chinese and English.)
2009 Peterson, Christian E., and Ben Marwick (Guest Editors). Special Issue: Collaborative Research in East and Southeast Asia. SAA Archaeological Record, May 2009, Volume 9, No. 3.
- ANTH 151 Emerging Humanity
- ANTH 210 Introduction to Archaeology
- ANTH 325 Origins of Cities
- ANTH 462 East Asian Archaeology
- *ANTH 466 Quantitative Archaeology
- ANTH 473 Lithics Analysis in Archaeology
- *ANTH 477 Archaeological Applications of GIS
- ANTH 640/699 Regional Settlement Patterns: Survey and Analysis
- ANTH 699 Comparative Archaeology
- ANTH 750B Chiefdoms and Other Middle-Scale Societies
(* = forthcoming)
page last updated April 30, 2012