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.


Book review: The story of a trader who made it big in the scramble for Africa

Updated 19 September 2018
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Book review: The story of a trader who made it big in the scramble for Africa

  • A must-read for anyone interested in real-life adventure
  • This biography transports the reader into his extraordinary world with its exotic cast of characters

BEIRUT: There was a time when, before the advent of a synthetic substitute, piano keys, billiard balls, combs and handles for cutlery were all made of ivory. Arab traders were interested in the lucrative trade to cater to the huge demand for ivory in Europe, America and the Far East.

Enter Tippu Tip whose first journey took place in 1855 and went on to establish him as a highly- successful ivory merchant.

His name is not easy to forget — it has an inner rhythm, a musical sound that stays with you and yet few know the truth about the iconic Omani trader whose life story turned into the stuff of legends.

Born in Zanzibar as Hamed bin Mohammed Al-Murjabi, Tippu Tip’s father, Mohammed bin Juma Al-Murjabi, was originally from Muscat and particularly proud of his mother’s ancestry.



Author Stuart Laing came across Tippu Tip while doing research for a dissertation on the abolition of the slave trade in East Africa and the Indian Ocean during the 19th century. “The aim of this book is to introduce the reader, through the life of Tippu Tip, to the extraordinary world of East Africa in the second half of the 19th century,” Laing wrote.

During that period, known as “The Race for Africa” and the “Scramble for Africa,” Europeans and Arabs opened up vast tracts of territory for trade in the East and Central part of Africa. Laing says us that these journeys were huge enterprises, with Arab trading caravans boasting porters and soldiers in huge numbers. Tippu Tip’s caravan itself had 2,400 men.

Besides being a smart trader, Tippu Tip had remarkable leadership qualities that would help him during his third journey lasting 12 years. During that trip, Tippu Tip made a decisive encounter with Henry Morton Stanley who acknowledged his unique qualities in his book, “Through the Dark Continent.” “After regarding him for a few minutes, I came to the conclusion that this Arab was a remarkable man, the most remarkable man I had met among the Arabs…”

The fascinating players outlined in this book make it a must-read for anyone interested in real-life adventure.