Archaeology of Ancient China

Course Description:
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.

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