Archaeological research conducted in the Ili River Valley over the last century has revealed that the region was a crossroads in an early system of exchange throughout Eurasia. Relationships have been shown between findings in the area with the Andronovo (ca. 1900–1200 b.c.) and Saka (ca. first millennium b.c.) cultures from the prehistoric Bronze Age (ca. 1500–1000 b.c.) and Early Iron Age (ca. 1000–300 b.c.), respectively. The region has been intensively excavated by Chinese archaeologists in recent decades and an increasing number of cultural and spatial-temporal frameworks have been put forward to organize the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age finds since the late 1970s. A growing body of research has also addressed cultural change and contact. These studies and related debates are almost unknown to international scholars and need to be evaluated in greater detail. This article surveys the archaeological evidence and critically reviews the main data from Chinese research. In discussing the development of archaeology in the Ili region, the article provides a deeper understanding of the current state of research in Northwest China and a solid backdrop against which further studies can be conducted. Pointing out some of the main unsolved questions and obscure areas yet to be addressed, the article suggests future directions for research.


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pp. 338-384
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