Coordinates: The Erligang culture (二里岗文化) (ca. 1500–1300 BC) is the term used by archaeologists to refer to a Bronze Age archaeological culture in China. The primary site was discovered at Erligang, just outside of the modern city of Zhengzhou, Henan, in 1951.
The ancient city was surrounded by a large wall with a circumference of almost 7 km. Large workshops were located outside of 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 Erligang culture was centered in the Yellow River valley. Its bronzes developed from the style and techniques of the earlier Erlitou culture, centred 85 km 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.
In its early years, the culture expanded rapidly, reaching the Yangtze River, as evidenced by the large site at Panlongcheng in Hubei. Since Zhengzhou lacked access to local bronze metals, sites like Panlongcheng were probably used to secure distant metal resources. The culture then gradually shrank from its early peak.
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 at Erligang to link the archaeological remains with the official history.
- Bagley, Robert (1999), "Shang Archaeology", in Loewe, Michael; Shaughnessy, Edward L., The Cambridge History of Ancient China, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 124–231, ISBN 978-0-521-47030-8.
- Liu, Li, "The products of minds as well as of hands: production of prestige goods in the Neolithic and early state periods of China", Asian Perspectives: the Journal of Archaeology for Asia and the Pacific 42 (1): 1–40, doi:10.1353/asi.2003.0025.