Early Bronze Age Animal Use at Lajia, a Qijia Culture Site in Qinghai Province, China




Fargo, David

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The faunal remains from Lajia, a late Neolithic and early Bronze Age site in northwestern China reveal that sheep, a newly introduced domesticate during this time period, are the central source of meat for the site’s residents. This represents a shift from earlier modes of subsistence in the region, which were focused on pig husbandry. This project provides important information regarding food production and animal husbandry during a period in which larger centres of power were emerging and new domesticates were being exploited. Sheep were the most common domesticate in the Lajia assemblage, followed by pigs and cattle. This corresponds with a general pattern in northern China during this period, in which sheep are increasingly utilized. However, an examination of age profiles reveals that mature adult sheep were rare in the assemblage, which suggests that they were being exploited for meat. This is not consistent with evidence from other northern Chinese sites during this time period, where sheep are interpreted as being a source of secondary products such as milk and wool. In addition to this, an analysis of bone breakage aimed to determine whether remains were processed. These tests were inconclusive, revealing that the main source of fragmentation in the assemblage was related to butchery, but with no significant correlation between increased levels of fragmentation and high-utility skeletal elements. As well as providing a relevant case study for the development of animal use during the Early Bronze Age, the analysis of faunal remains at Lajia represents a building block for the continuing development of zooarchaeology in the Chinese context.



zooarchaeology, China, Bronze Age, Lajia, Qijia, Qinghai, faunal, Animal use