Research Projects

The ICCHA aims to facilitate joint research projects between UK-based scholars at the Institute of Archaeology and Chinese scholars at Peking University and elsewhere. This pages provides a brief listing of current and recently finished research projects.

Imperial Logistics

Imperial Logistics: The Making of the Terracotta Army

The Institute of Archaeology research network "Imperial logistics" is investigating craft specialisation, interactions and social cohesion in emerging imperial systems, especially as they can be inferred through the study of the First Emperor’s Mausoleum. The first stage of the project focused on the metric study, archaeometallurgical characterisation and spatial analysis of the thousands of bronze weapons recovered with the Terracotta Army. The work is now expanding to other materials, including the warriors themselves. This project involves collaborators at UCL, UCL-Qatar, and the Museum of Emperor Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum. This project is supported by Rio Tinto and the Institute for Archaeo-Metallurgical Studies, and it has been adopted as an official project of The British Academy. It has its own webpage and blog. The UCL leader of this network is Dr. Marcos Martinon-Torres.


In addition the Imperial Logistics research network (above) the Institute is involved with a number of other research collaborations in archaeo-metallurgy, supervised by Professor Thilo Rehren. Details of these will be added in due course.

Early Rice Project

The Early Rice Project

The archaeobotany laboratories of UCL and Peking University are pursuing linked research on the origins and early development of rice agriculture in the Lower Yangtze river basin. The Early Rice Project has specific aims to develop better methods for inferring how rice was cultivated, in wet or dry fields, through combining plant macro-remains (seeds), phytoliths (silica), and diatoms. The changing ecology of rice can be documented alongside morphological changes in rice as it transitioned from a wild plant to a domesticated species. In addition, by lookin comparatively at rice across Asia, the project is modelling at geographical spread of rice and wet-rice systems which may have contributed increases to past global greenhouse gases in the form of methane. This project began with a small Sino-British Trust (British Academy) grant in 2006-07, and has gained major support from NERC (UK) with two grants (2009-2012, and 2013-2016). Chinese collaborators, such as Dr. QIN Ling from Peking University have also had major funding support from the Chinese Ministry of Education. Exploratory diatom research is also supported by the British Academy (2013). For details, and information on results see the The Early Rice website.

While the first major focus of research (through 2012) was focused on the Lower Yangtze (Zhejiang and Jiangsu), the next stage of research, which recently received a major research grant from NERC, will see new efforts to study how rice cultivation developed as it spread southwards towards Southeast Asia, including new archaeobotanical efforts in Fujian, Guangdong and Yunnan.

Comparative Pathways to Agriculture: Chinese Crop Domestications

The archaeobotany laboratories of UCL and Peking University are also pursuring research collaboration on the origins and spread of agriculture, and in particular how the domestication of crops in China unfolded and may be comapred to agricultural origins in other parts of the world. In addition the the work on Early Rice (above), we are developing research on Chinese millets, soybean, melons (Cucumis melo), zhang li, the domesticated form of Chenopodium album, and the mint crop sisho (Perilla frutescens).  A major research project, ComPAg (Comparative Pathways to Agriculture) with European research council funding headed from Professor Fuller, is expected to begin at the Institute of Archaeology in May 2013. This will include a  major Chinese component alongside comparable studies in South Asia, Western Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Niuhuliang bar

Neolithic Niuheliang, China

Recent joint research in GIS applications in archaeology by Dr. ZHANG Hai of Peking University, Dr. Andrew BEVAN of UCL, and Professor GUO Dashun (Laioning Provincial Institute of Archaeology), has lead to a new analysis of this site complexes distribution, "The Neolithic ceremonial complex at Niuheliang and wider Hongshan landscapes in north-eastern China" , which is forthcoming in the Journal of World Prehistory

Previously, the Centre for Applied Archaeology, which is affiliated with the UCL Institute of Archaeology provided advice on site management and conservation options for the site of Niuheliang, Liaoning Province in China. The work was undertaken Professor Clifford Price (retired) and Tim Williams from UCL, in collaboration with Laioning Provincial Institute of Archaeology.