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The Archaeology of China’s Decorative Arts

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The flood of stunning archaeological discoveries reported from China each year is rapidly expanding the corpus of ancient material culture. Tombs and pagodas in particular have proven to be extraordinary repositories of treasured artifacts, the research of which is the most vibrant area in the study of China’s premodern decorative arts. Because they were preserved in a historical context, archaeologically recovered artifacts, unlike objects for sale, yield rich and often unique historical information. In the past five decades, archaeological fieldwork has virtually reconstituted our knowledge of early silk and lacquer work, medieval metalwork, ceramic production, costume, and even the material culture of the imperial aristocracy of the Ming dynasty. The focus of this class is a selection of major archaeological sites that provide the interpretive framework for analyzing individual objects and the cultural practices and beliefs related to their use before and during their burial. 3 credits.