The Chinese University of Hong Kong Department of History Department of History
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Research Grants/Awards

Title of Project:
Jade Technologies and Raw Material Exchanges in Prehistoric Northeast Asia: An Archaeological Study of Nephrite Accessories

Total Fund Awarded:

Principal Investigator:
Professor TANG Chung, Department of History, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Funding Source:
RGC General Research Fund 2015/16

Abstract of Research:
        The capacity for symbolic organized behavior, such as the use of languages and ornaments, is a defining characteristic of modern human beings. As gold is for the West, jades have been one of the finest symbolic vessels in the East since prehistory. Jades are a collective term applied to compact aggregates of either of two minerals, nephrite and jadeite. In recent years, a large number of nephrite accessories have been excavated from Neolithic-Bronze Age archaeological sites in Northeast China, Cis-Baikal, and the Russian Far East. Rings and disks are the majority of such nephrite accessories, and the similarities and differences in their geological sources, production history, and contexts of use pose important questions for how the symbolic use of nephrite dispersed and evolved in Northeast Asia. This project aims to archaeologically describe long-distance exchanges and movement of nephrite in Neolithic to early Bronze Age Northeast Asia. We will analyze the geological provenance, production technologies, in situ archaeological contexts, sociocultural contexts and temporal and spatial distributions of excavated nephrite accessories and related artifacts.

        This timely first-handed investigation is the most comprehensive study thus far of long-distance exchanges and movements of nephrite raw materials, products, and production technologies in Northeast Asia. It is expected to create comprehensive standardized databases for known prehistoric geological sources of nephrite, excavated nephrite accessories, and related production technologies in the region. It is anticipated to make significant contributions to the early history of jade symbolism and long-distance human interactions in Northeast Asia.