Erligang culture

The Erligang culture (二里岡文化) (1600 - 1400 BC) is the term used by archaeologists to refer to a Bronze Age archaeological culture in China. The primary site was discovered at Erligang, just outside of the modern city of Zhengzhou, Henan, in 1951.

Many Chinese archaeologists believe that Zhengzhou was the site of an early Shang capital, equating the Erligang culture with an early stage of the Shang Dynasty. Most Western scholars, however, have refrained from adopting this view, because unlike the later Anyang settlement, no written records have been found at Erligang to link the archaeological remains with the official history.

The city was surrounded by a large wall with a circumference of almost 7 km. Large workshops were located outside of the city walls, including a bone workshop, a pottery workshop and two bronze vessel workshops. The modern city sits on the remains of the Erligang city, rendering archaeological excavations impossible. Therefore, most of the information about the Erligang culture comes from studying other Erligang sites.

The Erligang culture was centered in the Yellow River valley. Erligang was the first archaeological culture in China to show widespread use of bronze vessel castings. In its early years, the culture suddenly expanded rapidly, reaching the Yangtze River, as evidenced by the large site at Panlongcheng in Hubei. Since Zhengzhou lacked access to local bronze metals, sites like Panlongcheng were probably used to secure distant metal resources. The culture then gradually shrank from its early peak.

The Erligang culture was influenced by the Erlitou culture, as its bronzes developed from the style and techniques of the Erlitou culture. During the Erligang culture, the style of the bronze vessels became much more uniform than under the Erlitou culture; the use of bronze vessels also became much more widespread.


* "The Cambridge History of Ancient China : From the Origins of Civilization to 221 BC", Edited by Michael Loewe and Edward L. Shaughnessy. ISBN 0-521-47030-7
* Liu, Li, 2003, The products of minds as well as of hands: production of prestige goods in the Neolithic and early state periods of China "Asian Perspectives: the Journal of Archaeology for Asia and the Pacific" 42(1): 1-40.

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