Dapenkeng culture

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Dapenkeng culture
Geographical rangecoastal Taiwan and Penghu
Periodearly Neolithic
Datesc. 3500 – c. 2500 BC
Preceded byChangbin culture
Followed bylocal cultures

The Dapenkeng culture (Chinese: 大坌坑文化; pinyin: Dàbènkēng wénhuà) was an early Neolithic culture that appeared in northern Taiwan between 4000 and 3000 BC and quickly spread around the coast of the island, as well as the Penghu islands to the west. Most scholars believe this culture was brought across the Taiwan Strait by the ancestors of today's Taiwanese aborigines, speaking early Austronesian languages. No ancestral culture on the mainland has been identified, but a number of shared features suggest ongoing contacts.


The type site in Bali District, New Taipei City in northwest Taiwan, was discovered in 1958. Other major sites excavated before 1980 are the lowest layer of the Fengbitou Archaeological Site in Linyuan District, Kaohsiung and Bajiacun in Gueiren District, Tainan, both in the southwest of the island.[1] Dapenkeng sites have since been found in coastal areas all around the island, and on the Penghu islands in the Taiwan Strait.[2]

Dapenkeng pottery is thick and gritty, and light to dark brown in colour. The main types are large globular jars and bowls. The outsides of the jars are covered with impressed cord marks, except for the flared rims, which are decorated with incised linear designs.[3] Dapenkeng sites have also yielded a number of types of stone tools:

  • Pecked pebbles, up to 20 cm across, were probably used as net sinkers.
  • Bark beater were found at two sites.
  • Adzes were highly polished, with a rectangular cross section. Shouldered adzes made of basalt appear later in the period, and are believed to come from a workshop on Penghu.
  • Many thin, flat, triangular points of green slate were found, each with a hole drilled through the centre.[4][5]

Reaping knives made from oyster shells and some tools and ornaments made from bones and antlers have also been found.[2] The inhabitants engaged in horticulture and hunting, but were also heavily reliant on marine shells and fish.[6] Later in the period they cultivated foxtail millet and rice.[7][8]

Around 2500 BC, the Dapenkeng culture developed into locally differentiated cultures throughout Taiwan.[9][10] Because of the continuity with later cultures, most scholars believe that the Dapenkeng people were the ancestors of today's Taiwanese aborigines, and spoke Austronesian languages.[11]

Proposed mainland antecedents[edit]

Dapenkeng culture is located in Taiwan
Archaeological sites on Taiwan and the Fujian coast

Taiwan was first settled by Paleolithic people, who reached the island during the Late Pleistocene glaciation, when sea levels were lower and the Taiwan Strait was a land bridge.[12] Although the Paleolithic Changbin culture overlaps with the earliest Dapenkeng sites, archeologists have found no evidence of evolutionary development, and assume that the Dapenkeng culture must have arrived from elsewhere. The most likely candidate is the coast of Fujian on the other side of the Taiwan Strait, which is 130 km wide at its narrowest point.[13] However, archaeological data from that area is quite limited.[13] Three principal sites from the early Neolithic have been excavated:

  • The Keqiutou site on Haitan Island was partially destroyed by later activity, but has been excavated by Fujian archaeologists.[14] It features worked pebbles, polished adzes and points similar to those of Dapenkeng sites. The decoration of the pottery is more varied.[15]
  • The Fuguodun site on Kinmen was found by a geologist, and excavated in an ad hoc manner.[16] Some of the pottery is decorated with cord-marking, but stamping with shells is more common.[17]
  • The Jinguishan site on Kinmen features similar pottery to Fuguodun, but without cord-marking.[18]

K.C. Chang argued that Fuguodun and Dapenkeng were regional variants of the same culture.[12] Other scholars consider them distinct cultures, pointing to differences in pottery styles.[13]

These coastal mainland cultures seem to have appeared abruptly without local precursors, and their origins are unclear.[19] Chang and Ward Goodenough argue that these cultures reflect the influence of the Hemudu and Majiabang cultures of the lower Yangtze area, though they are unsure whether this was the result of migration or trade.[20] Peter Bellwood agrees that the Austronesian cultural package came from this area, but confirming archaeological evidence has not yet been found.[21]


  1. ^ Li (2013), p. 616.
  2. ^ a b Li (2013), p. 618.
  3. ^ Chang (1995), p. 166.
  4. ^ Chang (1995), pp. 166–167.
  5. ^ Li (2013), pp. 617–618.
  6. ^ Jiao (2007), pp. 91–94.
  7. ^ Hung & Carson (2014), pp. 13–14.
  8. ^ Li (2013), p. 619.
  9. ^ Li (2013), p. 615.
  10. ^ Hung (2004), p. 58.
  11. ^ Chang (1995), pp. 164–165.
  12. ^ a b Chang (1989).
  13. ^ a b c Jiao (2007), p. 93.
  14. ^ Jiao (2007), pp. 45–54.
  15. ^ Chang (1995), pp. 169–170.
  16. ^ Jiao (2007), pp. 54–56.
  17. ^ Chang & Goodenough (1996), p. 41.
  18. ^ Jiao (2007), pp. 56–57.
  19. ^ Jiao (2007), p. 57.
  20. ^ Chang & Goodenough (1996), p. 47.
  21. ^ Jiao (2007), pp. 57–58.

Works cited

  • Chang, Kwang-Chih (1989), B. Gordon (ed.), translated by W. Tsao, "The Neolithic Taiwan Strait" (PDF), Kaogu, 6: 541–550, 569, archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-18, retrieved 2015-12-15.
  • ——— (1995), "Taiwan Strait archaeology and Proto-Austronesian", in Li, Paul Jen-kuei; Tsang, Cheng-hwa; Huang, Ying-kuei; Ho, Dah-an; Tseng, Chin-yu (eds.), Austronesian Studies Relating to Taiwan, Taibei: Academia Sinica, pp. 161–184.
  • Chang, Kwang-Chih; Goodenough, Ward H. (1996), "Archaeology of Southeastern coastal China and its bearing on the Austronesian homeland" (PDF), Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, 86 (5): 36–56, JSTOR 1006620.
  • Hung, Hsiao-chun (2004), "A sourcing study of Taiwan stone adzes" (PDF), Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association, 2: 57–70.
  • Hung, Hsiao-chun; Carson, Mike T. (2014), "Foragers, fishers and farmers: origins of the Taiwanese Neolithic", Antiquity, 88 (342): 1115–1131.
  • Jiao, Tianlong (2007), The Neolithic of southeast China: cultural transformation and regional interaction on the coast, Cambria Press, ISBN 978-1-934043-16-5.
  • Li, Kuang-ti (2013), "First farmers and their adaptation in coastal Taiwan", in Underhill, Anne P. (ed.), A Companion to Chinese Archaeology, John Wiley & Sons, pp. 612–633, ISBN 978-1-4443-3529-3.

External links[edit]