Chinese archaeologist Lu Liancheng shared photographs of architectural sites and artifacts from the Shang, Zhou and Qin dynasties with students and faculty members on Tuesday night.
Lu explained the significance of his own archaeological discoveries relative to China's history, emphasizing what artifacts can reveal about the places they were found.
Speaking in Mandarin Chinese, Lu described the various religious, social and political systems in the three dynasties as he narrated slideshow with bronze vessels, jade sculptures, oracle bones and floor plans of homes or temples, Chinese professor Juwen Zhang translated his work into English.
One of the most compelling parts of Chinese archeology is comparing different dynastical artifacts, which are often discovered at a single archeological site, Lu said.
"Chinese history is layers piled up," he said.
The lecture spanned nearly 1,400 years of Chinese history, and bounced between anecdotes of individual finds and generalizations about each dynasty and the relationships between them. In one instance, after Lu presented several examples of Shang bronze and jade artistry, he explained what the pieces revealed about the Shang people.
"Bronze, jade and other crafts developed greatly," he said. "The state became more mature, and culture developed."
Lu and his colleagues excavated several temples in a central city of the Western Zhou dynasty, which followed the Shang dynasty. The layout of the city revealed a system of decentralized rule in which feudal lords paid tribute to a central authority, he said.
"In the temples, they found bronzes dedicated to feudal lords who were in charge of states elsewhere," Asian and Middle Eastern languages and literatures professor Sarah Allan said.
Archeological artifacts from the Qin dynasty, which came after the Zhou dynasty, demonstrated that it was a centralized, authoritarian empire, Lu said.
A massive mausoleum to a Qin king was a indication of the dynasty's extensive size and concentrated power.
The findings Lu shared are incredibly important to Chinese archeology because they focus on the earliest dynasties, visiting East Asian history scholar Roland Higgins said. Higgins has studied a number of archaeological sites in the Ming dynasty areas of China.
"The most significant part is the oldest because that's where the biggest discoveries are happening," he said. "[Lu] is doing archaeology on the Zhou, and that's new to be studying the Zhou archaeologically. So when he mentioned that he found Zhou palaces, I found that quite remarkable."
In past years, much of the archeological work performed in China focused exclusively on the Shang dynasty, but now it has shifted to other dynastical cultures, Higgins said.
Students who attended the event said that Lu's lecture gave them a new perspective on familiar material, but that the sentence-by-sentence translation detracted from their understanding.
"I think he had a lot to share, and there was a lot of information," Samantha Cheng '16, who is taking Introduction to Chinese Culture, said. "It was a little impractical time-wise that every sentence had to be translated."
The artifacts offered an understanding of Chinese folklore that extended beyond the class material, Vivian Chen '16.
"The last couple chapters we've read are about going through the different dynasties," she said. "He did go over all the things we talked about in class, like the burials and rituals, and he actually had pictures of that."
Lu also spoke about many bronze pieces, which tied into the class's recent study of the Bronze Age, Chen said.
The lecture, titled "The Foundation of Chinese Civilization: An Archaeological Perspective," was sponsored by the department of Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures.