9. Discussion

This study has investigated the presence of different stone tool production-distribution systems at the site of Huizui, by using the measure of efficiency to distinguish differences in the procurement and production stages of the system. While it has been clearly demonstrated that two different stone tool production-distribution systems were present at Huizui during the Erlitou period, it has been found that efficiency is not always an effective parameter. The following discussion will review the above results to identify the problems with solely using efficiency to understand how production-distribution systems operate.

In the first stage of the system, raw material acquisition, there was very little difference between the tool types in how raw material was procured. For each, there appeared to be an emphasis on efficient choice of raw material, based on distance to source, extractive and functional properties of the raw material.

The second stage, the production or manufacture of the tools, was investigated using three separate measures; the inter-site and intra-site spatial organisation of production and also the relative production numbers of the tools. For the inter-site spatial organisation, the results showed that at least two tool types, the spade and the knife, were manufactured completely on site, and there is a strong possibility that this also applied to the woodworking tools. Based on this, it would appear that the separation of activities among sites is not the most efficient method of production. This may be due to the extra time and costs required in scheduling activities between sites, instead of completing all manufacturing activities in close proximity. It also suggests that the Huizui craftsmen maintained control over the entire manufacturing process of the spades and were not influenced by a centralised outside power, such as the urban centre of Erlitou. This would appear to be in stark contrast to how bronze production was organised in the Shang dynasty (Franklin 1992), and also possibly within the Erlitou culture (Liu and Chen 2006).

There is some evidence, however, for the separation of tasks at a more general level, where the different stages of raw material procurement and manufacture may have been completed at different sites. That is, the initial shaping of the tool blanks may have occurred at the quarry site, or at a site close to the raw material source, before being transported to Huizui for final shaping and finishing.

This hypothesis is further supported by the identification of a small site with oolitic dolomite manufacturing debris at the foothills of the Song Mountains (Liu et al. 2007). This site, Jiulongshuihu West, is located within 100 metres of an ancient quarry site and may have been used as a place to reduce quarried slabs into tool blanks before sending them to other sites for final manufacture. At this stage, this site is undated and therefore not directly linked to the Erlitou culture but it does provide a clue that there may be intermediary production sites of oolitic dolomite.

Intra-site spatial organisation of production at Huizui was investigated through examining evidence for specialisation of space or labour. The results of this analysis showed that a stone tool production area existed in the western section of Huizui, within which there were separate activity areas, each specialising in producing stone tools. These activity areas were placed at particular intervals within the stone tool production area, suggesting that this space was highly organised. The two test pits excavated in 2002 confirmed that stone tool production was localised into discrete activity areas.

Based on the presence of household debris within the test pits and the presence of other household features within the wider stone tool production area, it was also determined that household production was the most likely context. The structure and stone tool production area excavated in Test Pit 1 indicates that stone tool production may have been kept separate from other household activities, which is to be expected as lithic waste, being sharp, may have been considered hazardous. The removal of lithic waste from household contexts is also shown by Test Pit 2, where lithic waste was put into domestic rubbish pits. Other studies have also noted the co-existence of domestic refuse and stone tool manufacturing debris, such as Bestel's (2006) study of plant remains within the stone tool production area.

Within the activity areas themselves, there was no evidence for specialisation of space or labour. While clearly dominated by oolitic dolomite spade production, the activity areas also contained evidence for adze, axe, chisel and knife production indicated by the presence of diabase and micaceous fine sandstone manufacturing debris. All manufacturing techniques also appeared to take place within the activity areas, as shown by the types of manufacturing debris. The organisation of the stone tool production area would appear to indicate that while stone tool production may have been a specialised activity that particular craftsmen within the Huizui society focused upon, specialisation of space or division of labour did not occur within these areas. Production appears to have been primarily focused upon oolitic dolomite spades, with evidence for their production being the most widespread and abundant within the stone tool production area, although other tools were also being made by the same craftsmen, or at least in the same area.

Relative production numbers were also investigated at Huizui by comparing on site production rates to consumption rates. Whilst not directly a measure of efficiency, production numbers did appear to markedly distinguish two levels of production on site, with the mass production of spades as opposed to much smaller numbers for the knives and woodworking tools. The scale of production therefore appears to be an important indicator as to the purpose of production. Based on a direct link between level of efficiency of the production of the stone tools and their distribution, it would appear that all tool types at Huizui should show the same type of distribution patterns. However, I would argue that the marked differences between the scale of production of the different tool types would indicate different levels of distribution. While the knife, adze, axe and chisel would appear to be produced in low numbers sufficient for local consumption, the large numbers of spades produced in comparison to the other tool types (see Table 4) and the dominance of their manufacturing evidence within the stone tool production area would suggest that the oolitic dolomite spades were mass produced at Huizui, with the majority of them consumed off site. Production for export is also supported by the disproportionate number of spade tool blanks compared to finished tools, suggesting a high production of tools for a low on-site demand (Table 4).

One of the destinations for the spades would appear to be the urban centre of Erlitou, which has spades of similar dimensions and morphology (Institute of Archaeology 1999). Thin-section analysis was completed of two samples of oolitic dolomite spades from Erlitou and compared to samples of spades from Huizui (Jackson and Webb 2004). The thin-sections showed that these spades were produced from the same raw material. A lack of evidence for stone tool manufacture at Erlitou (Institute of Archaeology 1999) suggests that the spades had to be imported from other stone tool manufacturing sites, such as Huizui.


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