Social Complexity and Communal Feasting with Beer in Neolithic North China
China’s long history of alcohol production can be traced to the start of the Neolithic era around 9000 BP, a period when communal feasting with alcoholic beverages played an essential role in ritual and political contexts. This talk focused on the social function of beer in the Neolithic Yangshao culture of north China (7000-5000 BP). Stanford University Archaeology Professor Li Liu discussed several lines of archaeological data related to beer production and consumption: beer brewing methods, changing forms of fermentation vessels (amphora), settlement layouts, intensification of millet cultivation, and the unprecedented population expansion of Yangshao farming communities. Millet beer drinking as part of ritual performance may have played a dynamic role to help form cultural identities and reinforce social solidarities that exerted long-lasting influence beyond the Yangshao culture.
Li Liu is the Sir Robert Ho Tung Professor in Chinese Archeology at Stanford University. 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.