Liangren Zhang

VRS 2013-14

Dr. Liangren Zhang earned his Bachelor degree in 1991 in Chinese archaeology from Peking University in Beijing, after which he joined the Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and began his journey in excavation and research on Bronze Age archaeology in China, which resulted in several excavation reports and research articles published thereafter. Since 2000, he began to study Russian archaeology in the Department of Art History, University of California at Los Angeles. His PhD dissertation “Ancient Society and Metallurgy”, which was finished in 2007 and published in 2012, unites Bronze Age archaeological materials from Russian Eastern Europe (from Don River to Ural River) and northern China to tackle the issue of the development of social complexity, and the interaction between social complexity and metallurgy in both regions. Returning to China in 2009, he is now a professor at Northwest University at Xi’an. In recent years he has been focusing his research on prehistoric cultural movements across northern China, Russia, and Central Asia. He is currently directing an excavation project at a Bronze Age metalworking settlement of Heishuiguo in Gansu Province and a research project of prehistoric metallurgy of Xinjiang.


During his stay at ISAW, Liangren Zhang will continue to work on the excavation materials from the Heishuiguo site and the project of prehistoric metallurgy of Xinjiang by engaging them with Western research literature. The three-year-long (2010-2012) excavation at the Heishuiguo site, which is located at the middle of the Hexi Corridor, a key section of the Silk Road connecting China and Rome, has produced a great amount of material, including that pertaining to metalworking, adobe architecture, agriculture and animal husbandry, which shed light on east-west interaction in the prehistoric period. The prehistoric metallurgy of the Xinjiang project, a joint one involving archaeologists and archaemetallurgists and Russian and Chinese specialists, aims to break the language and geopolitical barriers that have troubled Chinese and Russian scholars for decades. In the past three years (2011-2013), the project team has conducted visits of museums and institutes of archaeology in Xinjiang and Russia, collection of Chinese and Russian research literature, and XRF (X-ray fluorescence) test of metal artifacts from collections of museums across Xinjiang, especially those from controlled excavations in the Turfan and Hami regions. At ISAW, Liangren Zhang will finalize research articles based on the excavation materials from Heishuiguo and a research report on the prehistoric metallurgy of Xinjiang in the broad context prehistoric cultural movements across Russia, Central Asia, and northwestern China.