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Biography: Yi-Xian Lin

Yi-Xian Lin

Yi-Xian Lin, a Newton International Fellow at the Institute of Archaeology of University College London, was awarded a 2012 Rakow Grant for Glass Research. Dr. Lin is completing a postdoctoral research project on the earliest pigments (Chinese Blue and Purple) and mixed-alkaline glassy faience found at many archaeological sites in northwestern China.

The starting point of Dr. Lin’s research was the Majiayuan Cemetery in Gansu, where, she says, tens of thousands of vitreous objects have been excavated since 2006. A large number of similar beads from other sites, ranging from northwestern to southwestern China and dating from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age, have been identified. During the past two years, Dr. Lin has conducted a study of the chemical compositions and microstructures of these samples, which “indicates that the origins of the Chinese vitreous materials industry may include two discrete productions of pigments ... and mixed-alkaline glassy faience ... since the 11th century B.C. The two technologies seem to be independent at the very beginning and relate with each other only until the fourth century B.C., when a lead-barium glass production took over.”

Dr. Lin believes that “the manufacture of the mixed-alkaline faience was probably affected by developments in Europe and Russia (from the Caucasus region to southern Russia). ... Compositional parallels to the Chinese mixed-alkaline glassy faience are mainly found in Italy, France, Switzerland, Poland, and Russia in the Bronze Age” and elsewhere in Europe from the end of the Bronze Age to the early Iron Age.

In order to gain a better understanding of the origin of the ancient Chinese mixed-alkaline faience, Dr. Lin has planned analyses of lead, strontium, and copper isotopes for selected samples. These analyses, she says, will help her to determine whether the faience was manufactured locally, and to assess the possible influence of foreign technology.

Dr. Lin earned her Ph.D. from the Institute of Historical Metallurgy and Materials at the University of Science and Technology in Beijing. She wrote her dissertation on chemical analyses of glasses from the Niya oasis. She has been appointed as an affiliated research fellow at the Gansu Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology through 2013.