Bio


Li Liu jointed Stanford faculty in 2010. Previously she taught archaeology at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, for 14 years and was elected as Fellow of Academy of Humanities in Australia. She has a BA in History (Archaeology Major) from Northwest University in China, an MA in Anthropology from Temple University in Philadelphia, and a PhD in Anthropology from Harvard University. Her research interests include archaeology of early China (Neolithic and Bronze Age), ritual practice in ancient China, cultural interaction between China and other parts of the Old World, domestication of plants and animals in China, development of complex societies and state formation, settlement archaeology, and urbanism.

Academic Appointments


  • Professor, East Asian Languages and Cultures

Honors & Awards


  • The Best Translated Book of Year in Archaeology, China, Best Translated Book Award (2007)
  • Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities (FAHA), Australian Academy of the Humanities (2008)

Program Affiliations


  • Center for East Asian Studies

Professional Education


  • Ph.D., Harvard University, Anthropology (1994)
  • M.A., Temple University, Anthropology (1987)
  • B.A., Northwestern University, Xi'an, Archaeology (1982)

Current Research and Scholarly Interests


Research interests:
Archaeology of early China (Neolithic and Bronze Age); ritual practice in ancient China; cultural interaction between China and other parts of the Old World; early domestication of plants and animals in China; theory of development of complex societies and state formation; settlement archaeology; urbanism; zooarchaeology; starch analysis; use-wear analysis; mortuary analysis; craft specialization

2017-18 Courses


Stanford Advisees


All Publications


  • Millet grain morphometry as a tool for social inference: A case study from the Yiluo basin, China HOLOCENE Walsh, R., Lee, G., Liu, L., Chen, X. 2016; 26 (11): 1778-1787
  • Changing patteins of plant-based food production during the Neolithic and early Bronze Age in central-south Inner Mongolia, China: An interdisciplinary approach QUATERNARY INTERNATIONAL Liu, L., Duncan, N. A., Chen, X., Zhao, H., Ji, P. 2016; 419: 36-53
  • Outburst flood at 1920 BCE supports historicity of China's Great Flood and the Xia dynasty SCIENCE Wu, Q., Zhao, Z., Liu, L., Granger, D. E., Wang, H., Cohen, D. J., Wu, X., Ye, M., Bar-Yosef, O., Lu, B., Zhang, J., Zhang, P., Yuan, D., Qi, W., Cai, L., Bai, S. 2016; 353 (6299): 579-582

    Abstract

    China's historiographical traditions tell of the successful control of a Great Flood leading to the establishment of the Xia dynasty and the beginning of civilization. However, the historicity of the flood and Xia remain controversial. Here, we reconstruct an earthquake-induced landslide dam outburst flood on the Yellow River about 1920 BCE that ranks as one of the largest freshwater floods of the Holocene and could account for the Great Flood. This would place the beginning of Xia at ~1900 BCE, several centuries later than traditionally thought. This date coincides with the major transition from the Neolithic to Bronze Age in the Yellow River valley and supports hypotheses that the primary state-level society of the Erlitou culture is an archaeological manifestation of the Xia dynasty.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.aaf0842

    View details for Web of Science ID 000381560900039

    View details for PubMedID 27493183

  • Revealing a 5,000-y-old beer recipe in China PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Wang, J., Liu, L., Ball, T., Yu, L., Li, Y., Xing, F. 2016; 113 (23): 6444-6448

    Abstract

    The pottery vessels from the Mijiaya site reveal, to our knowledge, the first direct evidence of in situ beer making in China, based on the analyses of starch, phytolith, and chemical residues. Our data reveal a surprising beer recipe in which broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum), barley (Hordeum vulgare), Job's tears (Coix lacryma-jobi), and tubers were fermented together. The results indicate that people in China established advanced beer-brewing technology by using specialized tools and creating favorable fermentation conditions around 5,000 y ago. Our findings imply that early beer making may have motivated the initial translocation of barley from the Western Eurasia into the Central Plain of China before the crop became a part of agricultural subsistence in the region 3,000 y later.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1601465113

    View details for Web of Science ID 000377155400039

    View details for PubMedID 27217567

  • Plant-based subsistence strategies and development of complex societies in Neolithic Northeast China: Evidence from grinding stones Journal of Archaeological science: Reports Liu, L., Duncan, N. A., Chen, X., Ji, P. 2016; 7: 247-261
  • Understanding household subsistence activities in Neolithic Inner Mongolia, China: Functional analyses of stone tools. Journal of Anthropological Research Liu, L., Chen, X., Ji, P. 2016

    View details for DOI 10.1086/686298

  • Plant domestication, cultivation, and foraging by the first farmers in early Neolithic Northeast China: Evidence from microbotanical remains HOLOCENE Liu, L., Duncan, N. A., Chen, X., Liu, G., Zhao, H. 2015; 25 (12): 1965-1978
  • A long process towards agriculture in the Middle Yellow River valley, China: Evidence from macro- and micro-botanical remains Journal of Indo-Pacific Archaeology Liu, L. 2015; 35: 3-14
  • Identification of starch granules using a two-step identification method JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL SCIENCE Liu, L., Ma, S., Cui, J. 2014; 52: 421-427
  • A broad-spectrum subsistence economy in Neolithic Inner Mongolia, China: Evidence from grinding stones HOLOCENE Liu, L., Kealhofer, L., Chen, X., Ji, P. 2014; 24 (6): 726-742
  • When and how did Bos indicus introgress into Mongolian cattle? GENE Yue, X., Li, R., Liu, L., Zhang, Y., Huang, J., Chang, Z., Dang, R., Lan, X., Chen, H., Lei, C. 2014; 537 (2): 214-219

    Abstract

    The Mongolian cattle are one of the most widespread breeds with strictly Bos taurus morphological features in northern China. In our current study, we presented a diversity of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) D-loop region and Y chromosome SNP markers in 25 male and 8 female samples of Mongolian cattle from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in Western China, and detected 21 B. taurus and four Bos indicus (zebu) mtDNA haplotypes. Among four B. indicus mtDNA haplotypes, two haplotypes belonged to I1 haplogroup and the remaining two haplotypes belonged to I2 haplogroup. In contrast, all 25 male Mongolian cattle samples revealed B. taurus Y chromosome haplotype and no B. indicus haplotypes were found. Historical and archeological records indicate that B. taurus was introduced to Xinjiang during the second millennium BC and B. indicus appeared in this region by the second century AD. The two types of cattle coexisted for many centuries in Xinjiang, as depicted in clay and wooden figurines unearthed in the Astana cemetery in Turfan (3rd-8th century AD). Multiple lines of evidence suggest that the earliest B. indicus introgression in the Mongolian cattle may have occurred during the 2nd-7th centuries AD through the Silk Road around the Xinjiang region. This conclusion differs from the previous hypothesis that zebu introgression to Mongolian cattle happened during the Mongol Empire era in the 13th century.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.gene.2013.12.066

    View details for Web of Science ID 000331509600006

    View details for PubMedID 24418696

  • The evolution of millet domestication, Middle Yellow River Region, North China: Evidence from charred seeds at the late Upper Paleolithic Shizitan Locality 9 site HOLOCENE Bestel, S., Crawford, G. W., Liu, L., Shi, J., Song, Y., Chen, X. 2014; 24 (3): 261-265
  • Paleolithic human exploitation of plant foods during the last glacial maximum in North China. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Liu, L., Bestel, S., Shi, J., Song, Y., Chen, X. 2013; 110 (14): 5380-5385

    Abstract

    Three grinding stones from Shizitan Locality 14 (ca. 23,000-19,500 calendar years before present) in the middle Yellow River region were subjected to usewear and residue analyses to investigate human adaptation during the last glacial maximum (LGM) period, when resources were generally scarce and plant foods may have become increasingly important in the human diet. The results show that these tools were used to process various plants, including Triticeae and Paniceae grasses, Vigna beans, Dioscorea opposita yam, and Trichosanthes kirilowii snakegourd roots. Tubers were important food resources for Paleolithic hunter-gatherers, and Paniceae grasses were exploited about 12,000 y before their domestication. The long tradition of intensive exploitation of certain types of flora helped Paleolithic people understand the properties of these plants, including their medicinal uses, and eventually led to the plants' domestication. This study sheds light on the deep history of the broad spectrum subsistence strategy characteristic of late Pleistocene north China before the origins of agriculture in this region.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1217864110

    View details for PubMedID 23509257

  • Archaeology of China: From the Paleolithic to the Early Bronze Age Liu, L., Chen, X. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2012
  • Stone tool-use experiments to determine the function of grinding stones and denticulate sickles Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association Fullagar, R., Liu, L., Bestel, S., Jones, D., Ge, W., Wilson, A., Zhai, S. 2012; 32: 29-44
  • Were Neolithic rice paddies plowed? -- Usewear analysis of plow-shaped tools from Pishan in the Lower Yangzi River Region, China Vestnik Liu, L., Chen, X., Pan, L., Min, Q., Jiang, L. 2012; 11 (10): 14-28
  • Plant exploitation of the last foragers at Shizitan in the Middle Yellow River Valley China: evidence from grinding stones JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL SCIENCE Liu, L., Ge, W., Bestel, S., Jones, D., Shi, J., Song, Y., Chen, X. 2011; 38 (12): 3524-3532
  • Archaeological Soybean (Glycine max) in East Asia: Does Size Matter? PLOS ONE Lee, G., Crawford, G. W., Liu, L., Sasaki, Y., Chen, X. 2011; 6 (11)

    Abstract

    The recently acquired archaeological record for soybean from Japan, China and Korea is shedding light on the context in which this important economic plant became associated with people and was domesticated. This paper examines archaeological (charred) soybean seed size variation to determine what insight can be gained from a comprehensive comparison of 949 specimens from 22 sites. Seed length alone appears to represent seed size change through time, although the length × width × thickness product has the potential to provide better size change resolution. A widespread early association of small seeded soybean is as old as 9000-8600 cal BP in northern China and 7000 cal BP in Japan. Direct AMS radiocarbon dates on charred soybean seeds indicate selection resulted in large seed sizes in Japan by 5000 cal BP (Middle Jomon) and in Korea by 3000 cal BP (Early Mumun). Soybean seeds recovered in China from the Shang through Han periods are similar in length to the large Korean and Japanese specimens, but the overall size of the large Middle and Late Jomon, Early Mumun through Three Kingdom seeds is significantly larger than any of the Chinese specimens. The archaeological record appears to disconfirm the hypothesis of a single domestication of soybean and supports the view informed by recent phyologenetic research that soybean was domesticated in several locations in East Asia.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0026720

    View details for Web of Science ID 000297198200017

    View details for PubMedID 22073186

  • Pathways to Social Complexity in China Archeological Journal of the Catholic University in Lima Peru Liu, L. 2010; 11: 379-403
  • Academic freedom, political correctness, and early civilisation in Chinese archaeology: the debate on Xia-Erlitou relations ANTIQUITY Liu, L. 2009; 83 (321): 831-843
  • On the provenance of white pottery of the Erlitous site: the significance of Sr isotopic analysis 2009 Science and Technology on Ancient Ceramics: The 7th International Conference Proceedings Liu, L. edited by Luo, H. 2009: 65–70
  • China: State Formation and Urbanization The Oxford Handbook of Archaeology Liu, L. edited by Cunliffe, B., Gosden, C., Joyce, R. Oxford: University of Oxford. 2009: 579–610
  • The Emergence of Agriculture and Animal Domestication in China The Neolithic Revolution in the World Liu, L. edited by Demoule, J. Paris: CNRS Editions. 2009
  • State Emergence in Early China ANNUAL REVIEW OF ANTHROPOLOGY Liu, L. 2009; 38: 217-232
  • Wild or domesticated: DNA analysis of ancient water buffalo remains from north China JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL SCIENCE Yang, D. Y., Liu, L., Chen, X., Speller, C. F. 2008; 35 (10): 2778-2785
  • Evidence for the early beginning (c. 9000 cal. BP) of rice domestication in China: a response HOLOCENE Liu, L., Lee, G., Jiang, L., Zhang, J. 2007; 17 (8): 1059-1068
  • Rethinking Erlitou: legend, history and Chinese archaeology ANTIQUITY Liu, L., Xu, H. 2007; 81 (314): 886-901
  • Early figurations in China: Ideological, social, and ecological implications Image and Imagination: A Global Prehistory of Figurative Representation Liu, L. edited by Renfrew, C., Morley, I. Cambridge: McDonald Institute Monographs. 2007: 271–286
  • The Chinese Neolithic: Trajectories to Early States Liu, L. Beijing: Cultural Relics Press. 2007
  • State Formation in Early China Liu, L., Chen, X., Translated by Shim, J. South Korea: Hakyon munhwasa Press. 2006
  • Sociopolitical change from Neolithic to Bronze Age China Archaeology of Asia Liu, L. edited by Stark, M. T. Blackwell Publishers, Malden, Oxford, and Carlton. 2006: 149–176
  • Urbanization in China: Erlitou and its hinterland Urbanism in the Preindustrial World: Cross-Cultural Approaches Liu, L. edited by Storey, G. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. 2006: 161–189
  • The Chinese Neolithic: Trajectories to Early States Liu, L. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2004
  • 'The products of minds as well as of hands': Production of prestige goods in the Neolithic and early state periods of China Asian Perspectives Liu, L. 2003; 42 (1): 1-40
  • State Formation in Early China Liu, L., Chen, X. London: Duckworth. 2003
  • The First Emperor's Mausoleum and the Terracotta Army Two Emperors - China's Ancient Origins Liu, L. edited by Delroy, A. Melbourne: Praxis Exhibitions Australia. 2002: 44–53
  • Yangling and Searching for Immortality in the Han Dynasty Two Emperors - China's Ancient Origins Liu, L. edited by Delroy, A. Melbourne: Praxis Exhibitions Australia. 2002: 102–107
  • China Encyclopedia of archaeology: history and discoveries Liu, L. edited by Murray, T. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. 2001: 315–333
  • Chang, Kwang-chih Encyclopedia of archaeology: history and discoveries Liu, L. edited by Murray, T. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. 2001: 298–299
  • Ancestor worship: An Archaeological investigation of ritual activities in Neolithic North China Journal of East Asian Archaeology Liu, L. 2000; 2 (1-2): 129-164
  • Who were the ancestors? The origins of Chinese ancestral cult and racial myths ANTIQUITY Liu, L. 1999; 73 (281): 602-613