My research over the past 35 years has encompassed the application of the physical sciences, particularly chemistry, within archaeology, and has included a wide range of topics. It might be summarized under three main headings – the study of archaeological materials, the investigation of biogeochemical processes, and numerical applications in archaeology and palaeoclimatic reconstruction. Each of these has been supported by external research grants, postgraduate studentships, and publications.
I have had almost continuous external funding (mostly UK Research Council) since March 1986. The focus of my research has shifted over the period from a relatively straightforward analysis of archaeological materials to more complex questions of process, integration of various sources of information, and the development of numerical methodologies. There is a continuing need to further develop the theoretical underpinning of materials study in archaeology, including methods for the better integration of scientific provenance studies with existing archaeological understanding.
I am a Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and a Member of the Oriental Ceramic Society.
Anyang, the last capital of the Chinese Shang dynasty, became one of the largest metal consumers in Eurasia during the second millennium BCE. However, it remains unclear how Anyang people managed to sustain such a large supply of metal. By considering the chemical analysis of bronze objects within archaeological contexts, this paper shows that the casting and circulation of metal at Anyang was effectively governed by social hierarchy. Objects belonging to the high elites such as Fuhao, particularly the bronze ritual vessels, were made by carefully controlled alloying practice (primary) using very pure copper, whereas the lower elites only had access to bronzes made by secondary alloying practice and copper with more impurities. Such contrasts allow scholars to identify those objects which are less likely to have been made by mixing and recycling, which has very important implications for the chemical and isotopic determination of provenance for future studies.
Synthesis of stable isotopic data for human bone collagen: A study of the broad dietary patterns across ancient China
Liu, R, Pollard, M, Schulting, R, Rawson, J, Liu, C
ancient China, big data, dietary change, Eurasian agriculture, east-west communication, stable isotope analysis
Introduction to the Special Issue: Correlating changes for environmental, technological and societal transformation in prehistoric eastern Asia