Established on 1st August in 1950, the Institute of Archaeology was one of the earliest research institutes of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The researchers came both from the Institute of History, Beiping Research Academy and the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica. After the establishment of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 1977, the institute became a member of it.
In the early 1950s, the institute just had some 20 researchers and could only organized one or two fieldwork teams of several members every year to conducted fieldwork. However, the late 1950s witnessed a dramatic development of the institute, whose staff sharply increased to more than 300 persons. Yet under the “Simplify Organization” policy started in 1961, many of its researchers was redeployed to other research organizations. By the eve of the “Cultural Revolution”, its staff decreased to about 170 persons. At present, 173 researchers are working in the institute. Among them, there are 11 Ph.D supervisors and 51 Master supervisors.
During its more than fifty-years-long history, the institute has conducted fieldwork in most of the provinces in China. Famous sites dug by the institute, sometimes with the cooperation of other research organizations, include the prehistoric Xiaonanhai, Xiachuan, Peiligang, Beishouling, Banpo, Sanlihe, Xipo and Dingsishan sites; the Bronze Age Taosi, Erlitou and Dongxiafeng sites which are significant for the study of the origin of Chinese civilization and the Xia culture; the Yanshi Shang city site, the Yinxu site in Anyang, the Fenghao, Zhouyuan and Liulihe sites, the Eastern Zhou city site in Luoyang, the Tonglushan mining site, the Dadianzi site and the Qianzhangda cemetery of the Shang and Zhou period; the Chang’an city site of the Han Dynasty, the Luoyang city site of the Han and Northern Wei Dynasities, the Yecheng city site of the Caowei and Northern Dynasties, the Daxing city site of the Sui Dynasty, the Chang’an city site of the Tang Dynasty, the Luoyang city site of the Sui and Tang Dynasties, the Yangzhou city site of the Sui and Tang Dynasties, the upper capital Longquanfu city site of the Bohai Kingdom, the Uigur Buddhist temple of the Gaochang Kingdom at ancient Beiting, the middle capital Zhongjing city site of the Liao Dynasty, the middle capital Zhongdu city site of the Jin Dynasty and the Dadu city site of the Yuan Dynasty; the Duling mausoleum, the Mancheng tomb, the Mawangdui tomb and the Dabaotai tomb of the Han Dynasty; the mausoleum and the palace city of the Southern Yue emperor, the large tombs of the Northern Dynasties in Cixian County, the Ding Mausoleum of the Ming Dynasty; the Longquan kiln, the Guanyao kiln, the Lingwu kiln and the Jianyao kiln etc.. The fruitful discoveries have made great contribution to the flourish of Chinese archaeology.
The institute has published more than 100 important monographs and reports. The writing of many of the works had been the National Major Projects of Social Sciences. They include “Xin Zhongguo de kaogu faxian he yanjiu” (Researches on new archaeological discoveries of the ‘New China’), “Qinghai Liuwan” (Liuwan site in Qinghai), “Yanshi Erlitou” (Erlitou site in Yanshi), “Dingling” (Ding Mausoleum), “Xiaotunnandi jiagu” (Oracle bones discovered in the Southern Xiaotun), “Yinzhou jinwen jicheng” (Collection of bronze inscriptions of the Shang and Zhou Dynasties), “Dadianzi” (Dadianzi site), “Xihan Nanyuewang mu” (Mausoleum of the Southern Yue emperor), “Beiting Gaochang Huihu fosi yizhi” (The Uigur Buddhist temple of the Gaochang Kingdom at ancient Beiting). The writing of “Zhongguo Kaoguxue” (Chinese Archaeology) is a national major project during the ninth five-year plan (1995-2000). This eight-volumes monumental work concentrates the talent of many distinguished scholars of the institute. By present, two volumes have been published. Besides, other several dozens of monographs also got the support of National Foundation of Social Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. In addition, many scholars of the institute are in the author-list of “Zhongguo dabaike quanshu” (Chinese Encyclopaedia), the fascicule of Archaeology of the series “Dangdai Zhongguo conshu” (Current China) and “Zhonghua renmin gongheguo guojia lishi dituji” (National atlas of ancient China). The institute also owns several leading archaeological journals including Kaogu (published monthly), Kaoguxuebao (published quarterly), Kaoguxue jikan (published annually), Kaoguxue cankaoziliao (published aperiodically), and Zhongguo kaoguxue nianjian (Annals of Chinese Archaeology).
Having been paying more attention on the application of scientific methods in archaeological researches, the institute established the Center of Archaeological Sciences and Experiments in 1998. The center has several labs with the latest equipments of zooarchaeology, physical anthropology, botanic archaeology, chemical and physical analysis, radio carbon dating, thermo luminescent dating, AAS, metallographical analysis, electric probe, GIS analysis, remote sensing, relics repair, drawing and photography. The radio carbon dating lab is the earliest in China and has published most of the radio carbon dates for Chinese archaeology.
“Opening to the outside world” has been a steady policy of the institute. Since the holding of an overseas exhibition of Chinese fine relics supported by pre-premier Zhou Enlai in 1978, the institute has developed extensive cooperative relationship with archaeological institutes all over the world. According to an incomplete statistic, the institute had welcome more than 800 scholars from more than 40 countries including Japan, the United States, Germany, Great Britain, Australia, France, Canada, Italy, Holland, Switzerland, Greece, Iran, Pakistan, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Vietnam, North Korea, Israel, South Korea and India. Holding international conferences, scholar exchange and cooperative research are the main ways for the institute to develop academic relationship as well as friendship with its foreign partners for a better understanding between each other.