The Tenth National Symposium on Scientific Archaeology was held at the Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences from August 9th to August 11th, 2010, and was co-sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of Inner Mongolia, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) Institute of Archaeology and the Chinese Society for Scientific Archaeology. Around one hundred papers were submitted for consideration and more than 80 experts and scholars from across China participated in this year’s symposium. In addition, a number of foreign researchers from the University of Wisconsin (USA), Bryant University (USA), the University of British Columbia (Canada), the Max-Planck-Institut für evolutionäre Anthropologie (Germany) and the University of Nottingham (United Kingdom) were specially invited to Beijing to attend the symposium.
The symposium’s opening ceremony was presided over by Research Fellow Yuan Jing, Director of the CASS Institute of Archaeology’s Centre for Scientific Archaeology. Representatives from the three institutions responsible for organizing this year’s symposium took the opportunity to address the audience and welcome the attending experts and faculty members on behalf of their respective institutions.
The three representatives were Professor Hou Quanlin, Deputy Director of the Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences; Research Fellow Tala, Director of the Archaeological Institute of Inner Mongolia; and Research Fellow Bai Yunxiang, Deputy Director of the CASS Institute of Archaeology. In their speeches, they fully acknowledged the outstanding achievements made in recent years in the field of scientific archaeology and expressed their sincere wishes for a bright future for scientific archaeology within Chinese academia.
Research Fellow Jin Duo, former Director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Bureau of Basic Sciences, and Zhang Hongxiang, a Department Director at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Bureau of Science and Technology for Resources and Environment, were also present at the opening ceremony.
The papers submitted for inclusion in this year’s symposium fell under three main categories - conference reports, invited papers, and special reports - and focused on six key research topics: environmental archaeology, bioarchaeology, archaeometallurgy, ceramic archaeology, the protection of cultural relics, and the archaeological research on stone, glass and jade artifacts. The symposium provided the participants with a platform for broad but thorough academic exchange and discussion.
Attention was also drawn to the discoveries made in China in the past few years and the latest trends in Chinese scientific archaeology. These included: research into the various means of meat acquisition in the Neolithic Age; strontium and lead isotope analyses of bronze residue, slag and constituent ores and the microscopic analysis of fossil charcoal; a detailed exploration of the comprehensive conservation measures that can be taken to preserve iron artifacts; the study of lipids, proteins, carbides and other chemical residues; the synchrotron x-ray mapping and analyses of the metallic elements present in latten brass; the use of GIS technologies in archaeological research; the development of digital environmental archaeology technologies; the analysis of stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes in human and animal bones; the use of ancient DNA techniques; the successful application of virtual imaging in archaeological research; and a systematic study of the workmanship and chemical composition of faience, frit and glass dating from the Western Zhou Dynasty to the early Spring and Autumn Period.
The rapid development of archaeology and scientific archaeology in China has also attracted the attention of numerous foreign scholars across the world. Among them are the American Professors James H. Burton and James B. Stoltman from the University of Wisconsin, who relied on the carbon, oxygen and strontium isotope analysis of human bones and the petrographic analysis of ceramic artifacts to study the migration of the Yin-Shang populace. Professor Stoltman also investigated the techniques used to produce the ceramic artifacts which were essential for Shang dynasty bronze production, which is now commonly classified as a co-craft and was reliant on the Shang ceramics industry. Professor Yang Hong from Bryant University (USA) talked about the findings of his latest research and the new developments made in his study of hydrogen isotope fractionation, while Professor Jing Zhichun from the University of British Columbia in Canada discussed the use and material value of jade within Shang society.
During the symposium, the representatives placed a great emphasis on the results of their recent research and discussed the hot topics and difficulties encountered in the field of scientific archaeology. This year’s symposium had a few characteristics which set it apart from previous symposia. First of all, a large proportion of the findings presented at this year’s symposium were on the subject of bioarchaeological research, reflecting the remarkable advances made within the field of bioarchaeology in China in recent years. Second, the standard of the research presented at this year’s symposium showed a significant improvement over the research seen in previous years and the findings encompassed a far broader range of research topics. And lastly, this year's participants consisted of mostly young and middle-aged scholars, especially graduate students. This has helped ensure that the expertise of the Chinese scholars engaged in the field of scientific archaeology will be passed down to a future generation of researchers.
All in all, this year’s symposium has proved that scientific archaeology is a flourishing field of academic research in China. By bringing together the archaeologists at the forefront of Chinese scientific archaeology to participate in China's Tenth National Symposium on Scientific Archaeology, the organizers hoped that this event will not only promote the development of Chinese scientific archaeology at a national level but also help develop it into a world-class field of archaeological research.
Research Fellow Yuan Jing of the CASS Institute of Archaeology’s Centre for Scientific Archaeology presided over the closing ceremony, in which Professor Wang Changsui, Director of the Department of Scientific History and Archaeometry at the Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, took the opportunity to deliver his closing speech. In his closing speech, Professor Wang gave a glowing appraisal of this year’s symposium and summarized the main achievements of the three-day event. He then thanked the participants and researchers for their efforts and said he looked forward to seeing them all again at the Eleventh National Symposium on Scientific Archaeology in 2012. (Translated by Kelly McGuire)