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

Updated 28 August 2018
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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.


What We Are Reading Today: How Plants Work

Updated 22 September 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: How Plants Work

  • Each section of the book focuses on a specific part of the plant — such as roots, stems and trunks, leaves, cones and flowers, and seeds and fruits

Author: Stephen Blackmore

All the plants around us today are descended from simple algae that emerged more than 500 million years ago. While new plant species are still being discovered, it is thought that there are around 400,000 species in existence.
From towering redwood trees and diminutive mosses to plants that have stinging hairs and poisons, the diverse range of plant life is extraordinary. How Plants Work is a fascinating inquiry into, and celebration of, the complex plant kingdom, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.
With an extended introduction explaining the basics of plant morphology — the study of plant structures and their functions — this book moves beyond mere classification and anatomy by emphasizing the relationship between a plant and its environment.
It provides evolutionary context drawn from the fossil record and information about the habitats in which species evolved and argues for the major influence of predation on plant form.
Each section of the book focuses on a specific part of the plant — such as roots, stems and trunks, leaves, cones and flowers, and seeds and fruits — and how these manifest in distinct species, climates, and regions. The conclusion examines the ways humans rely on plant life and have harnessed their capacity for adaptation through selection and domestication.
Abundantly illustrated with 400 color images documenting a wide range of examples, How Plants Work is a highly informative account about an integral part of our natural world.