Institute of Archaeology
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Min Yin

The earliest high-fired glazed ceramics in China: Scientific studies of the proto-porcelains from Zhejiang during the Shang and Zhou periods (c.1700-221 BC)

Bodies and glazes of 60 proto-porcelain sherds and 20 non proto-porcelain samples from Shang and Zhou periods production sites in Deqing, Zhejiang province were analysed by EPMA-WDS. This site was excavated in 2007 and all these samples were analysed for the first time. The results indicate that the bodies of all samples were made from local raw material – porcelain stone. Wood ashes, high in lime and low in potash, were intentionally applied to the proto-porcelain samples, resulting in the formation of lime-rich glazes whose composition were determined by a temperature-controlled mechanism. In contrast, kiln fragments and furniture show a potash-rich fuel vapour glaze that formed unintentionally during use of the kiln. The firing temperature for most of the proto-porcelain glazes is around the maturing temperature for typical more recent lime glazes, showing that the potters were able to attain sufficiently high temperature in the kilns from such an early time.

An experimental firing was later carried out to explore more about these speculations. The analytical data of the proto-porcelain from other burial and residential sites are used to compare with these from the production sites so that the possible communication and consumption within the area or even beyond could be revealed.

Proto-porcelain, as the earliest high-fired glazed ceramic in China, was also put in a social context to understand more about its possible practical and ideological function in the early society.

Funding organisation

  • Kwoks’ SHKP Foundation

Supervisors

 Educational background

  • BA, Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies, Fudan University, 2006
  • MA, Archaeological Materials, The University of Nottingham, 2007

Yin, M., Rehren, Th., and Zheng, J.M., 2011. The earliest high-fired glazed ceramics in China: the composition of the proto-porcelain from Zhejiang during the Shang and Zhou periods (c. 1700 – 221 BC). Journal of Archaeological Science, doi:10.1016/j.jas.2011.04.014

Yin, M., 2009. The Scientific Analysis of Ceramic Sherds from Wuzhou Kilns. In: H.J. Luo and X.S. Zheng ed. The proceeding of the 2009 International Symposium on Ancient Ceramic. Shanghai: Science and Technology Press, 230-249.

Chen, C., and Yin, M., 2005. A Symbolic Research of the Bronze Trees from Sanxingdui. Sichuan Wenwu, 6: 38-44.

Presentations

2010 International Symposium on Archaeometry (ISA)

10th – 14th May, 2010, Tampa, Florida, USA

2009 International Symposium on Ancient Ceramic (ISAC)

24th-28th March 2009, Beijing, China

  • Using modern technology to tackle the ancient questions

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