A Bayesian analysis of radiocarbon dates from prehistoric sites in the Haidai Region, East China, for evaluation of the archaeological chronology

Tengwen Long, Mayke Wagner, Pavel E. Tarasov

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


The historical Haidai Region, centred over the modern Shandong Province, East China, is rich in archaeological sites and reveals a long sequence of Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures since the early Holocene. The sequence analysed in this study comprises five main cultural complexes, starting with the early Neolithic Houli culture and ending with the early Bronze Age Yueshi culture. The existing regional chronology is based primarily on pottery typology and cultural layer stratigraphy, with little input from radiometric dating evidence or systematic age modelling. This chronology has been widely, and often uncritically, used for broad-scale correlations and reconstruction of human-environmental interactions. In the current paper, the prehistoric chronology of the region is evaluated by applying a Bayesian modelling approach to a set of 275 dates filtered from a dataset totalling 317 radiocarbon dates from the region. Modelling results suggest that the Houli culture (ca. 6500–5500 BCE in the unmodelled chronology) started ca. 8000–7500 BCE (95% probability range) and ended ca. 5300–4800 BCE. The modelled earliest onset of the Beixin culture (ca. 5300 BCE) occurs earlier than previously suggested (ca. 5000 BCE), against a once hypothesised cultural hiatus between ca. 5500 and 5000 BCE. The modelled onset of the Dawenkou culture, ca. 4500–3900 BCE, corroborates the existing dating (ca. 4100 BCE), though its end, ca. 2100–1800 BCE, occurs at least 500 years later than in the unmodelled chronology (ca. 2600 BCE). The Bayesian analysis places the Longshan culture between ca. 2900–2500 BCE and ca. 2100–1700 BCE, more or less in agreement with the unmodelled chronology (ca. 2600–1900 BCE), while the modelled onset of the Yueshi culture between ca. 3200 and 2500 BCE is distinctly earlier than the one previously proposed (ca. 1900 BCE). The modelled temporal overlaps of the Dawenkou, Longshan, and Yueshi cultures challenge the widely accepted unilinear cultural chronology of the region and emphasise the necessity for systematic radiometric dating.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-90
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Chinese civilisation
  • Early agriculture
  • Lower Yellow River Region
  • Outlier analysis
  • Overlapping multi-phase model
  • OxCal software package

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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