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- radiocarbon; Three Gorges; China; technological change; salt production; Yangzi River; Zhongba
The prehistoric chronology of the Three Gorges region along the Yangzi River in China has only become the focus of significant archaeological research in the last decade. The site of Zhongba is one of the most significant sites among those recently studied. Thirty-two radiocarbon dates produced by the C-14 laboratory at Peking University, and five additional dates from the Beta Analytic laboratory in the United States show a clear chronological profile of the activity periods at the site of Zhongba. This radiocarbon profile clarifies two very important issues related to the prehistory of the Three Gorges region. The dates anchor an emerging ceramicbased relative chronology in a series of stratigraphically associated absolute dates. This article discusses these results and suggests explanations for several anomalous dates. The sequence demonstrates the need to reassess radiocarbon sequences by means of ceramic seriation. The dates also demonstrate that three di¤erent vessel classes, which dominate the ceramic assemblage at Zhongba and which are believed to have been used in salt production at the site, date to three chronologically distinct phases of activity. The di¤erences among the three types suggest that they represent a sequence of technological changes in the process of salt production at the site.