Archaeology of Ancient China
The archaeology of early China has undergone dramatic transformations in recent decades. This
course examines the current developments and debates in key issues in the archaeology of early
Chinese civilizations, with a special focus on the development of social complexity and
interregional interaction networks, and the emergence of early cities, states, and early
civilizations. The course will contextualize these issues in the framework of world prehistory and
comparative civilizations, addressing contemporary archaeological theories and methods, as well as
the major research projects, which contribute directly to the current interpretations of the social
changes observed in archaeological record.
While presenting the benchmarks and “events” central to the formation of the Chinese civilization,
the course will also explore the regional variations and pluralistic trajectories subsumed by the
master narrative to reveal the rich dynamics of this complex social process. These discussions
will be placed in the context of major paradigm shifts and theoretical debates in the archaeology
of China and in the history of archaeological theories on the early world civilizations.
This undergraduate level class is intended both as a regional survey course on how early
civilizations of China emerged from their prehistoric foundations and as a case study of how
theories on the rise of a civilization are formulated and changed in their social and intellectual
milieu. By the end of the class, students will develop a general understanding of archaeology of
early China, familiarity with the theoretical and methodological approaches in anthropological
archaeology, and a critical understanding of how the archaeological process features into the
cultural production of the contemporary society.
Course Format, Assignments, and Grading:
This course is in lecture format. Students are required to attend all the lectures.
Grading will be based on a mid term exam (30%) and a final examination (30%)
A research paper (40%) that is based on at least five academic sources (academic publications,
books, and journals) and approximately 10 pages in length (double-spaced).
Textbook: Liu Li and Chen Xingcan 2012. The Archaeology of China: From the Late Paleolithic to the
Early Bronze Age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.