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Erligang culture

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Title: Erligang culture  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Bronze Age, Shang dynasty, Shang archaeology, Archaeology of China, Xingan (archaeological site)
Collection: Archaeological Cultures of China, Bronze Age in China, Shang Dynasty
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Erligang culture

Erligang culture
Relief map of eastern China with an oval covering most of the North China Plain, the Yanshi and Zhengzhou sites just south of the Yellow River and teh Panlongcheng site just north of the Yangtze
Geographical range North China Plain
Period Bronze Age China
Dates c. 1500 – c. 1300 BC
Type site Erligang
Major sites Zhengzhou, Yanshi, Panlongcheng
Preceded by Erlitou culture
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 二里崗文化
Simplified Chinese 二里岗文化

The Erligang culture[1] is a Bronze Age urban civilization and archaeological culture in China that existed from approximately 1500 to 1300 BC. The primary site was discovered at Erligang, within the modern city of Zhengzhou, Henan, in 1951.


  • Major sites 1
    • Zhengzhou 1.1
    • Panlongcheng 1.2
  • Bronze vessels 2
  • Relation to traditional accounts 3

Major sites

The culture was centered in the Yellow River valley. In its early years, it expanded rapidly, reaching the Yangtze River. The culture then gradually shrank from its early peak.


Later investigations showed that the Erligang site was part of an ancient city surrounded by a roughly rectangular wall with a perimeter of about 7 kilometres (4 mi). The walls were of rammed earth construction, a technique dating back to Chinese Neolithic sites of the Longshan culture (c. 3000–2000 BC). It has been estimated that the walls would have been 20 metres (66 ft) wide at the base, rising to a height of 8 metres (26 ft). Large workshops were located outside the city walls, including a bone workshop, a pottery workshop and two bronze vessel workshops. The modern city sits on the remains of the Erligang city, rendering archaeological excavations impossible. Therefore, most of the information about the culture comes from studying other Erligang sites.


The large site at Panlongcheng, on the Yangtze River in Hubei, is currently the largest excavated site of Erligang culture. It was discovered in 1954, and excavated in 1974 and 1976. Since Zhengzhou lacked access to local bronze metals, sites like Panlongcheng were probably used to secure distant metal resources.

Bronze vessels

Erligang bronzes developed from the style and techniques of the earlier Erlitou culture, centred 85 kilometres (53 mi) to the west of Zhengzhou. Erligang was the first archaeological culture in China to show widespread use of bronze vessel castings. Bronze vessels became much more widely used and uniform in style than at Erlitou.

Relation to traditional accounts

Many Chinese archaeologists believe that the ancient city of Zhengzhou was one of the early capitals of the Shang dynasty mentioned in traditional histories. However many scholars and Western archaeologists have pointed out unlike the later Anyang settlement, no written records have been found

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