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GIS Mapping and Archaeology of Early China - Phase I: Shang Archaeology

GIS Mapping and Archaeology of Early China


This project is collaboration between the Digital Scholarship Lab and archaeological experts of the Faculty of Arts. Specialists in Humanities have become aware of the advantages in employing digital technologies in research and presentations. Between 2015 and the present, the staff of the Lab have been working with Professor Celine Lai, who works on early China, to document her research data collected between 2005 and the present, regarding the Early Bronze Age finds along the Yangtze River valley during the first millennium.

This is the first time the finds from the Yangtze River regions, which were traditionally regarded as peripheries to the civilized regions of the Shang regime (c.1500 - c.1045 BC) were properly digitized and presented. The purposes of the project are summarized as follows:

  1. Publish maps of Chinese archaeological sites for general and academic use;
  2. Establish a well-maintained platform for the exchange of information about Early China.
  3. Illustrate cross-disciplinary possibilities among Archaeology, History, Geography and other relevant disciplines. 

The current webpage is presenting the first set of maps regarding the finds from the Anyang period (c.1200 - c.1045 BC). It will be continuously updated and expanded to include other regions and archaeological phases.


Archaeological Questions of Early China and GIS Applications 

Early China refers to the periods between the Neolithic and Han Dynasty (c.206 BC - 220 AD). The data presented here belongs to the Shang period, that is, c.1500 - c.1300 BC, formed in response to the questions raised in Shang Archaeology:

  1. What was the extent and scope of Shang archaeological sites?
  2. How were the people of the Yangtze regions distinguished today by means of archaeological remains?

Here, the project borrows the ways Professor Lai employs in her studies. The maps illustrate different bronze types unearthed in the Yellow River and Yangtze River regions. We are, thus, presenting the sites, where the finds of 1) nao bells of Anyang; 2) nao bells of the south; and 3) Ritual bronze vessels were reported.  

Specifically, the archaeology sites on bronze nao in Shang China are grouped under four tables according to the research themes defined by Professor Lai:

They include sites in the major activity areas of the Shang people, as well as sites with bronzes discovered in different provinces along the Yangtze River. An online database of maps and summary of findings including the data of this project are available openly to interested scholars, institutions and organizations.