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 around 9000 BP, a period when communal feasting with alcoholic beverages played an essential role in ritual and political contexts. This talk will focus on the social function of beer in the Neolithic Yangshao culture of north China (7000-5000 BP). Stanford University Archaeology Professor Li Liu will discuss 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.