In China, the earliest written record of alcohol appeared in oracle-bone inscriptions around 3000 years ago. Archaeological investigations, however, have pushed back the date of alcohol production several millennia. Around 9000-8000 years ago, the production of fermented beverages in specialized pottery vessels appeared as a significant component in the transition to agriculture. Since then, alcohol has been essential in ritual feasting, contributing to sociopolitical processes throughout prehistory and history. Our research has revolutionized the understanding of alcohol production and consumption in the prehistoric Yellow River valley.
We collaborate with the Campus Archaeology Lab (https://web.stanford.edu/dept/anthropology/cgi-bin/chineselaborquarters/) and the Stanford University Archaeology Collections (https://suac.stanford.edu/) for teaching and research on foodways. Working with Campus Archaeologists, we have carried out several experimental studies, such as cutting Typha cattails with stone sickles to perform use-wear analysis on the tool, cooking food with the stone-boiling method to understand this ancient culinary tradition, and analyzing ceramic vessels excavated at the Stanford heritage site.
The results of these experiments have help us to build the reference database for studying archaeological artifacts. We have also analyzed artifacts stored in the Stanford University Archaeology Collections, and our on-going projects include functional analyses of Acheulean hand-axes from India, as well as pottery vessels from ancient Egypt and Peru.