Chemical comparison of rare Chinese white pottery from four sites of the Erlitou state: Results and archaeometrical implications


White pottery is among the most significant finds from China's earliest state, Erlitou (c. 1900–1500 bc). Samples were primarily discovered in small numbers from elite tombs of a few sites, leading to the hypothesis that they were made at only a few locations and then circulated regionally as prestige items. To facilitate determining provenances, we compare the ICP–MS trace elements and TIMS Sr isotopes of whiteware with two soil samples from Nanwa, a possible manufacturing site, and with shards found at three other sites: Erlitou, Huizui and Nanzhai. The Nanwa shards demonstrate special elemental and Sr isotopic features. Considering the chemical observation and archaeological background together, we propose that Nanwa was a centre for whiteware production, although the two soil samples we collected there were probably not the exact materials used. Some whiteware pieces from Erlitou, Huizui and Nanzhai fall in the chemical field defined by Nanwa samples, indicating that they were possibly made at Nanwa. Many other samples from these three sites plot outside the Nanwa field, implying they were probably not Nanwa products. This study demonstrates that while chemical sourcing is very useful, firm archaeological context must remain the cornerstone of such research

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University of Queensland eSpace

Last time updated on 30/08/2013

This paper was published in University of Queensland eSpace.

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