Abstract

This article describes the results of petrographic analyses of ceramic thin sections from the Shang sites of Huanbei and Yinxu in Anyang, Henan, China. The initial goal was to determine the physical composition of locally produced ceramic artifacts. This was accomplished by focusing upon gray wares, the most common ceramic class in Shang contexts at Anyang, and comparing the findings to local, clay-rich sediments in both qualitative and quantitative terms. The resulting data provide objective bases for distinguishing imported ceramic items, notably those with exotic rock tempers and/or distinctive, low-silt pastes, and for making further inquiries into the role of ceramic production and exchange in the development and functioning of Shang society. The study revealed an unexpected amount of compositional diversity within Shang gray wares and indicates that at least three local sediments and three different technologies were utilized in the manufacture of ceramic objects. For most ceramic objects utilized in daily activities, such as storage and serving vessels and drainpipes, untempered loessic sediments were employed. By contrast, for cooking vessels, alluvial sediments tempered either with sand or grit (crushed rock, some of which was exotic) were normally employed. A third technology, for bronze piece molds, utilized loess, which was untempered, but apparently processed so as to concentrate the silt content thus increasing porosity and minimizing shrinkage, properties that would reduce flaws in cast bronzes.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-8283
Print ISSN
0066-8435
Pages
pp. 182-203
Launched on MUSE
2009-08-07
Open Access
No
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