Institute of Archaeology


A chemical and isotopic perspective towards social organization of Chinese Bronze Shang Dynasty

08 December 2022, 6:15 pm–7:15 pm

Seminar poster with a picture of a periodical table and also a Chinese artefact on a black background

Ruiliang Liu (British Museum) will give an ICCHA China Night research seminar at the UCL Institute of Archaeology on 8 December.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







International Centre for Chinese Heritage and Archaeology (ICCHA)


UCL Institute of Archaeology
31-34 Gordon Square

This is a hybrid event hosted by the International Centre for Chinese Heritage and Archaeology (ICCHA), which will take place in Room 612, 6th floor of the UCL Institute of Archaeology, and also online via Zoom. Registration for the Zoom event is via the booking link above. 


The Bronze Age of Central China demonstrated a variety of old and new social features that dominated the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers for nearly two thousand years, many of which were extended to the historical periods and even modern China. Among them, one of the most critical features was mass production, primarily through copper-based metallurgy and bronze ritual vessels during the Shang period (16th – 11th Century BCE). The pivotal question is that through which mechanism that Bronze Age Central China became capable of mass production. To increase the scale of production requires not only advancement in the supply of raw materials and technologies, but also a positive feedback loop between the products and the social context. In this talk, I shall synthesize three levels of information concerning the movement of metals, technologies and organization mode. The combination of trace elemental and alloying patterns of bronze objects and field archaeology reveals a highly efficient network linking the Yangtze River to the Yellow River and further north, building up the main basis for mass production and allowing for a multi-source strategy for the Shang people. Metal recycling also played a crucial part in sustaining the entire production system and deeply correlated to the social hierarchy.


The speaker, Dr Ruiliang Liu (刘睿良) is the Early China Collection Curator at the Department of Asia, British Museum. His research interests include archaeometallurgy, radiocarbon dating, the Chinese Bronze Age and its communication along the Silk Road. He received in PhD in archaeological science from the University of Oxford in 2016 and continued his postdoctoral research within ERC funded project FLAME. So far, he has published over fifty peer-reviewed journal articles and one co-authored book. He is also one of the four principal investigators (PI) of the newly awarded ERC synergy project Horsepower.

This seminar is free and open to all. All welcome!