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The Australian National University

Mr Po-yi Chiang

Position: PhD candidate in Archaeology


Thesis title:
Changes in pottery production in relation to increasing social complexity:
A case study on the ancient Chengdu plain from 2500 to 600 BC

My doctoral research discusses potential evidence for modes of production in the ancient Chengdu plain from 2500 to 600 BC, examining the possible pottery production changes in relation to increasing social complexity. Analyses of the modes of pottery production in ancient societies have long been a focus of archaeological research. Investigators have made inferences about the organization of labour from statistical characteristics of pottery assemblages, such as standardization and diversity, and from direct evidence for production. An important issue is how pottery production might change in relation to increasing social complexity. It is commonly assumed that as cultural systems become increasingly complex over time, so the mode of production should change from part-time specialization to state-level full-time specialization. The evolutionary model for ceramic production also implies that there should be a change to a more complex mode over time, with the development of mass production in stratified societies. Data from the ancient Chengdu plain in Sichuan Province, southwestern China, are appropriate for addressing this issue as a case study.

Apart from the examination of pottery production, my research will also cover some other issues of debate. These include the problem of whether the regional chronology of the Chengdu follows the ‘Baodun-Sanxingdui-Shierqiao’ sequence, and also the problematic dating of the Sanxingdui culture. I will pay attention to the temporal and spatial distributions of the sites of the different archaeological cultures, in order to determine whether the Sanxingdui culture was contemporaneous with the Shierqiao culture, and whether the Sanxingdui and the Shierqiao cultures were descended from the earlier Baodun culture.

Research Interests

Archaeology of prehistoric and proto-historic southwestern China, cultural contact, state formation, craft production


  1. Archaeology of Ancient Yunnan: Sichuan influence in the transformation of the Shizhaishan culture. VDM Verlag Dr. Mueller, 2009.
  2. 2011  The ge of the Shizhaishan cultural complex, Bulletin of Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association, vol.30, pp.98-113.
  3. Transformation of the Shizhaishan cultural complex under the influence of the Han Empire (in Chinese), Southern Ethnology and Archaeology, (in press).

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