What We Are Reading Today: Art and Archaeology of the Erligang Civilization

Updated 28 August 2018
0

What We Are Reading Today: Art and Archaeology of the Erligang Civilization

  • This richly illustrated book is the first in a western language devoted to the Erligang culture

Named after an archaeological site discovered in 1951 in Zhengzhou, China, the Erligang civilization arose in the Yellow River Valley around the middle of the second millennium BCE.

Shortly thereafter, its distinctive elite material culture spread to a large part of China's Central Plain, in the south reaching as far as the banks of the Yangzi River. The Erligang culture is best known for the remains of an immense walled city at Zhengzhou, a smaller site at Panlongcheng in Hubei, and a large-scale bronze industry of remarkable artistic and technological sophistication.

This richly illustrated book is the first in a western language devoted to the Erligang culture. It brings together scholars from a variety of disciplines, including art history and archaeology, to explore what is known about the culture and its spectacular bronze industry. 

The opening chapters introduce the history of the discovery of the culture and its most important archaeological sites. Subsequent essays address a variety of important methodological issues related to the study of Erligang, including how to define the culture, the usefulness of cross-cultural comparative study, and the difficulty of reconciling traditional Chinese historiography with archaeological discoveries. 

The book closes by examining the role the Erligang civilization played in the emergence of the first bronze-using societies in south China and the importance of bronze studies in the training of Chinese art historians.

The contributors are Robert Bagley, John Baines, Maggie Bickford, Rod Campbell, Li Yung-ti, Robin McNeal, Kyle Steinke, Wang Haicheng, and Zhang Changping.


Book Review: Sinan Antoon pays tribute to war’s forgotten losses

Updated 16 June 2019
0

Book Review: Sinan Antoon pays tribute to war’s forgotten losses

  • The story follows the life of introspective academic Nameer Al-Baghdadi, an Iraqi living in the US
  • It was written by internationally celebrated author Sinan Antoon

CHICAGO: Out of Baghdad comes “The Book of Collateral Damage” by internationally celebrated author Sinan Antoon, whose fourth novel follows the life of introspective academic Nameer Al-Baghdadi, an Iraqi living in the US. An encounter in Baghdad with an eccentric bookseller while travelling with documentary filmmakers as a translator leads Nameer to a manuscript that forces him to explore memories of the past, the loss of his home and the destruction caused by war.

The year is 2003 and Nameer is moving from Massachusetts to New Hampshire to teach at Dartmouth. Before moving, he travels back to Iraq for the first time since 1993. Encountering his old home, his relatives and the streets he used to travel, Nameer finds himself at a bookseller’s shop on Al-Mutannabi Street. The stall owner, Wadood, hands him a manuscript in which he has documented everything destroyed by war, from inanimate objects, to people to the flora and fauna. Intrigued by Wadood’s book, he takes it back to the US with him and finds himself suddenly consumed by it.

Through Nameer, Antoon takes his readers on a journey that is profound and deeply rooted in Iraq and its culture. From classical poetry collections and the last days of Abbasid-era caliph Harun Al-Rashid, to the Kashan rugs made in Iraq and sold as if from Iran to the Ziziphus tree — all have witnessed the destruction caused by war. Wadood’s cataloging of “the losses that are never mentioned or seen. Not just people. Animals and plants and inanimate things and anything that can be destroyed” are painfully explored.

The first-person narrative allows Antoon to bring to life an intense sense of heartbreak that inevitably follows political turmoil and devastation. There is a back and forth in his novel between Nameer and Wadood’s manuscript — narratives that parallel to one another. And there is a magical realism as he personifies inanimate objects who feel love and sorrow, who feel their own deaths when bombs fall down on them and fires engulf them. Tragedy befalls the lives of people who are victims of power, but also befalls objects that are the collateral damage of powerful people’s wars.