Beyond Typology: Current Trends in Ceramic Analysis in China

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

For many years, the main approach to ceramics from archaeological sites in China consisted of creating ceramic typologies aimed at establishing cultural chronology. While these typologies still provide an important foundation for our understanding of past societies, recent years have seen the rise of new approaches and methodologies in ceramic analysis in China. For example, chemical and petrographic analyses of ceramic pastes are providing insight into production provenances and techniques; residue and use-wear analyses are revealing changing dietary preferences; noninvasive methods such as pXRF are generating new data from objects too delicate or unique to be traditionally sampled. In addition to new methodologies, new theoretical approaches are also shaping the ways in which both recent results and past studies are being interpreted, questioning established typologies and throwing new light on processes of ceramic production and usage as well as changes in and inter-connection between different ceramic traditions. The aim of this session is to bring together scholars working in multiple time periods across China to present and discuss their research, thus allowing for a better understanding of emerging trends and techniques in this field.

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  • Documents (9)

  • EDXRF Analysis on Ceramics During the Mongol Period in China (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lingyi Zeng.

    In this paper I will present the results from analyzing and comparing ceramics from multiple contexts, including ceramic production centers, burials and residential areas during the Mongol period. I adopted Energy-Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence (EDXRF), a very effective and non-destructive way to analyze the chemical compositions of their pastes, glazes and pigments of samples from Jingdezhen, Inner Mongolia, and other areas of the Mongol Empire. Other scientific techniques and statistic methods...

  • Evaluating Structural Change in Neolithic Economies: Social Network Analysis of Utilitarian Pottery Exchange in the Jianghan Plain (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Camilla Sturm.

    The emergence of walled town settlements of the late Neolithic middle Yangzi River region are widely associated with the development of a complex form of social organization. While significant attention has focused on the structure and organization of individual walled settlements, little is known about the nature of social and economic interactions between communities. To address this issue, I combined geochemical analysis of pottery with formal social network methods to investigate changes in...

  • Made locally or long-distance transportation? New evidence on ceramic vessels from salt production sites from the Late Shang Period in North Shandong (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Qiaowei Wei.

    Research on salt production in Ancient China has been examining the function, typology, and chronology of a certain type of ceramic vessel, the kuixingqi (Helmet-shaped vessel). Instead of examining typology of Kuixingqi vessels from salt workshops at North Shandong region, dated to 3000 BC, I began by looking at how those Kuixingqi vessels made and transported into the salt workshops, if those vessels are not made locally. I will present the findings of the ceramic petrographic analysis...

  • Materials Processing in the Production of Ceramic Bronze-Casting Molds from the Zhouyuan area, China, c. 1100-771 BCE (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Matthew Chastain. Jianli Chen. Xingshan Lei.

    The extraordinary bronze ritual vessels of Shang- and Zhou-period China were cast in multi-part ceramic molds, constructed from many individually formed mold sections. This piece-mold casting method was unique to ancient China, and an essential component of the technology appears to have been the use of a specialized type of ceramic paste to form the casting molds. This ceramic material was soft, porous, and rich in silica, making it quite unlike pottery clays in terms of composition,...

  • Micromorphology of Hearth Features and FTIR Analysis of Clays at Xianrendong and Yuchanyan Cave: Reconstructing Pyrotechnology and Human Behaviour Connected with the Earliest Pottery (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ilaria Patania. Susan Mentzer. Ofer Bar-Yosef. Paul Goldberg.

    The cave sites of Xianrendong and Yuchanyan are known for having produced the earliest pottery sherds yet discovered, respectively 20,000 cal BP and 18,600 cal BP. Both of these Chinese Upper Palaeolithic sites have been systematically sampled for radiocarbon dating and geoarchaeological analysis. Through micromorphology we identified clay lined fire features and ash lenses at both caves, revealing technological behaviour concerning pyrotechnology and the manipulation of clays in the Chinese...

  • Portable XRF Analysis of the Pigments of Majiayao Pottery from Dayatou, NW China (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Eric Carlucci. Jianfeng Cui. Ling-Yu Hung.

    The site of Dayatou is located on a terrace bluff in the Tao River Valley in Gansu province, Northwest China.In 2015, the Tao River Archaeological Project team conducted systematic collection across the surface of the bluff and recovered thousands of Majiayao culture potsherds. To identify the technology and provenances of these potsherds, in the 2016 field season we used a portable XRF in a handheld configuration to analyze the chemical elements of the black paint decorated on 124 selected...

  • Standardization in pottery production of the Jinsha site, Chengdu Plain, China (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kuei-chen Lin.

    In earlier studies, scholars have focused on the measurement of vessels’ dimensions to assess the degree of standardization. It should be noted however that not all dimensions are culturally salient or equally important. Moreover, when manufacturing processes can be decomposed into multiple stages, cultural idiosyncrasies that have been shaped through either institutionalized or unconscious ways might affect and be sought in any of these stages. This has called for analyses on ceramics by using...

  • Use-Wear Analysis on Cooking Vessels of the Longshan Culture: Case Studies on the Tonglin Site (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Yichao Zhao.

    Some preliminary research on ceramic vessels of the Longshan culture had indicated li vessels as the most important type of cooking vessels. Vessel's categories might not exclusively indicate a vessel type. As was observed for the Tonglin site, an important site of Longshan culture at Linzi, li, guan, and pen vessels are the most abundant categories type. However, li vessels of Tonglin site have small rim diameter sizes on average, and it is necessary to collaborating use-wear analysis for...

  • Use-wear and Standardization Analysis of Pottery from Dibaping, A Banshan Period Cemetery in Southern Gansu Province, China (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Andrew Womack.

    Excavated in 1978, the cemetery at the site of Dibaping in southern Gansu Province, China revealed hundreds of Banshan period (2600-2300BC) ceramic vessels. The elaborately painted geometric motifs on many of the vessels led to them quickly being touted as an example of the pinnacle of artistic achievement in Neolithic northwestern China. Aside from typology, however, no other analyses have been done on these objects. The result is that little is known about how these vessels were created, the...