Buried History, Hidden Wonders: Discovering East Asian Archaeology

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Buried History, Hidden Wonders: Discovering East Asian Archaeology
Spring 2010 Archaeology 0160

Instructor: Rod Campbell

Class time: M/W/F 2:00-2:50 PM
What do Peking Man, human sacrifice, buried armies, lost cities, silk routes and treasure fleets have to do with one another? Discover East Asian archaeology and find out! Asia’s history is long, rich, and varied. It is also being re-written by spectacular new discoveries little known in the West.
This course will introduce you to the exciting world of East and Southeast Asian archaeology. Beginning with the earliest hominid inhabitants through the emergence of agriculture, early cities, empires, and world trade we will explore East Asia's long past through a colorful palimpsest of archaeological discovery.

The aim of this course is to introduce students to the history and civilizations of East Asia through the lens of archaeology. From Paleolithic origins to pre-modern empires East Asia has a rich and varied history. It is, moreover a history that is both poorly known in the West and constantly being re-written through archaeological discovery. Through themes and case studies of archaeological sites and discoveries this course will give students a taste of archaeological excitement and at the same a broadened understanding of the world’s civilizations. Students will be encouraged to explore their interests within the broad scope of the course more fully through a short research essay and a final research project delivered as a class presentation. Academically this course will hone a wide range of skills from distilling and retaining information for exams, researching and writing an essay, working in groups and presenting in public.

Requirements and grading:

This course will be lecture based with some opportunities for discussion. There will be one short research essay based on one of the weekly themes or case studies, a mid-term exam of multiple-choice and short answer questions and a final, group presentation on an East Asian archaeology topic of their choice. Attendance and participation in class and wiki discussion will be graded.

Participation: 20%

Short Essay: 20%

Mid-term Exam: 30%

Final Presentation: 30%

Short Essay: Students have one short essay (1500 words) to write on a weekly theme or case study of their choice. Expansion and exploration is key here: a significant portion of this assignment’s assessment will be based on the student’s ability to do their own research related to a weekly topic or theme. The deadline for handing in this essay is the final week of class but essays will be accepted (and encouraged) earlier.
Mid-term Exam: This exam will test student’s knowledge of course materials covered up until the date of the exam. The format will be multiple-choice and short answer questions. The exam will be 40 minutes long.
Final Presentation: The final presentation will be a 10-minute, in-class presentation of a small group (3-4 students) research project on a course-related topic or archaeological case study of the students’ choice. Projects must be approved by the instructor beforehand.
Readings and Class Preparation:

The weekly readings for the course will range between 100 and 150 pages and never exceed 50 pages of preparation for a single class. Due to the rapid pace of Asian archaeological discovery, the wide-ranging and multi-media material of the course and my desire for creativity and flexibility in design and execution, not all readings have been specified in the syllabus and some that have will likely change. Readings (and changes to readings) will be posted to the wiki (either the reading itself or the reference) at least one week in advance.

Weekly Schedule:

  1. Introduction

Wednesday Jan 27th: Lecture – Discovering East Asian Archaeology (Aims and scope of course).

Friday January 29th: Lecture – East and Southeast Asia – Background

  • Readings: Barnes Preface and Chapter 1 (pp. 7-13, 16-27); Glover and Bellwood Foreword and Chapter 1 (pp. xviii-xxi, 4-12).

  1. East Asian Origins

Monday February 1st:

Peking Man and the discovery of Zhoukoudian

  • Reading: Barnes (pp. 42-48); TIME 1936 article; read Unesco site intro http://www.unesco.org/ext/field/beijing/whc/pkm-site.htm; Binford 1985.

Wednesday February 3rd:

The “Bamboo Curtain”, the Multi-regional Hypothesis and other Controversies

  • Reading: Barnes (pp 48-54); Thorne and Wolpoff; Hong et al.; Tattersol; “Asian Hominids Grow Older”.

Friday February 5th:

Early South East Asian Migrations and the Hobbits of Indonesia

  • Reading: Glover and Bellwood (map on pp 8, pp. 12-17); “The Littlest Humans”; “Rethinking the Hobbits of Indonesia”; “Out of Africa and into Asia”

  1. Agriculturalists and Foragers

Monday February 8th:

Early Domestication North and South: Yuchanyan and Cishan

  • Reading: Glover and Bellwood (pp. 23); Barnes (pp. 55-68, 92-107) http://www.bu.edu/asianarc/field_projects/fp_yuchanyan1.html (read Yuchanyan website); http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090601/full/news.2009.534.html (check out some of the comments posted);

Wednesday February 10th:

The Affluent Foragers of Japan: The Jomon

  • Reading: Barnes 69-92; http://heritageofjapan.wordpress.com/just-what-was-so-amazing-about-jomon-japan/; http://heritageofjapan.wordpress.com/just-what-was-so-amazing-about-jomon-japan/ways-of-the-jomon-world-2/viewpoints-on-the-jomon-village/; additional readings posted on the wiki.

Friday February 12th:

Domestication: Revolution or Gradual Process? The Great Rice Debate!

  • Readings: Liu et al. 2007 (4 pages); Fuller et al. 2007 (13 pages); Liu et al. response (21 pages)

  1. Emerging Elites: the Complexity of Social Complexity

Monday February 15th:

Goddess Temples and Jade Burials: the Hongshan and Liangzhu Cultures

  • Readings: Barnes (pp. 108-118), other readings posted to the wiki.

Wednesday February 17th:

Regional Surveys and Settlement Hierarchies: Mapping the Emergence of East Asia’s First Cities

Friday February 19th:

Astronomical Observatories, Human Sacrifice and Royal Tombs? - Taosi

  • Readings: Selection from Liu Li, “The Chinese Neolithic”, Translated Chinese reports on Taosi excavations (14 pages)

  1. The Argonauts of Asian Prehistory: The Austronesians

Wednesday February 24th:

Debated Origins: Finding a Homeland for Prehistory’s Greatest Mariners

  • Readings: Glover and Bellwood (pp. 25-38);

Friday February 26th:

Lapita and the Colonization of the Pacific

  • Readings: to be posted to wiki.

  1. Re-writing History: Legendary Dynasties and Lost Civilizations

Monday March 1st:

Ancient Texts, Dragon Bones and the Discovery of “the Great Settlement Shang”

  • Readings: Selections to be posted

Wednesday March 3rd:

The Chinese Bronze Age: Blood for the Ancestors

  • Readings: Barnes (118-152); selections to be posted

Friday March 5th:

The Lost Civilization of Sanxingdui

  • Readings: Selections to be posted

  1. Empire: East Asia’s First Superpowers

Monday March 8th:

The Buried Army of the First Emperor

  • Readings: Selections from the Basic Annals of the Qin by Sima Qian; short reading on the discovery of the terracotta army; overview reading on the site today.

Wednesday March 10th

East Asia’s First Empires

  • Reading Barnes 192-207, other reading to be posted.

Friday March 12th

Mid-Term Exam

  1. Archaeology of the Silk Road

Monday March 15th

On the Road: From Chang’an to Rome and Back Again

  • Readings: http://depts.washington.edu/silkroad/; readings posted to wiki.

Wednesday March 17th

Hidden Caves and Forgotten Sutras: Dunhuang, a Silk Road Crossroads Town

  • Readings: Selected readings on Dunhuang and its discovery.

Friday March 19th

The Northern Route: 5 Millennia of East-West Connections

  • Readings: Selections from various articles and book chapters to be posted to the wiki.

  1. East Asian Kingship in the Shadow of the Han

Monday March 22nd

Han Bases, Warring Kingdoms and Korea’s First Polities

  • Reading: Barnes (pp. 208-221); Pai 1992.

Wednesday March 24th

Legendary Queens, Horse-riding Warriors and Monumental Tombs: The Rise of Japanese Kingship

  • Reading: Barnes (pp. 222-245); selections posted to wiki.

Friday March 26th

Rescuing Archaeology from the Nation: Nationalism and Archaeology

  • Reading: Fawcett 1995; Nelson 1995; von Faulkenhausen 1995.

  1. The Civilizations of South East Asia

Monday April 5th

Edges of Empire: the Early States of Vietnam

  • Reading: Glover and Bellwood (pp. 202-231); selections from Higham; unpublished article to be posted.

Wednesday April 7th

Early Kingdoms of Thailand

  • Reading: Glover and Bellwood (pp. 120-142); selections from Higham.

Friday April 9th

City in the Jungle: Angkor Wat

  • Reading: Glover and Bellwood (pp. 89-113); further readings to be posted.

  1. Conquering the World: The Steppe Empires

Monday April 12th

Xiongnu, Turks and Mongols: Archaeology of the Eastern Steppe Empires

  • Readings: to be posted.

Wednesday April 14th

Representing Genghis Khan: the Mongols and the Media

  • Preparation: watch two documentaries on life of Genghis Khan: one by the BBC, the other by produced in Mongolia (subtitled).

Friday April 16th

Karakorum: Forgotten Capital of the World

  • Readings: various websites, images and short articles to be posted to wiki.

  1. World Trade Before European Hegemony

Monday April 19th

The Southern Silk Road: Ancient World Trade and South East Asian Trade Kingdoms

  • Readings: Glover and Bellwood (pp. 68-83, 282-309); Barnes (pp. 263-265)

Wednesday April 21st

The Son of Heaven’s Treasure Fleet: the Archaeology and Psuedo-archaeology of Zhenghe’s Voyages

  • Readings: web and print selections to be posted to wiki.

Friday April 23rd

Underwater Archaeology: The Batu Hitam Shipwreck

  • Readings: Flecker 2001; “Sunken Treasures Re-write Chinese History”; “Re-building a Treasure Ship”.

  1. Student Presentations:

Monday 26th – Friday 30th

Course Readings

Textbooks will be ordered to the bookstore but students may be able to get better deals on-line … .


Barnes, Gina. 1999. The Rise of Civilization in East Asia: The Archaeology of China,

Korea and Japan. New York and London: Thames and Hudson.

Glover, Ian and Peter Bellwood. 2004. Southeast Asia: From Prehistory to History. New

York and London: RoutledgeCurzon.
Recommended Readings List:

Allen, Sarah ed. 2005. The Formation of Chinese Civilization: An Archaeological


Coe, Michael D. 2003. Angkor and the Khmer Civilization. New York: Thames and

Higham, Charles. 2002. Early Cultures of Mainland Southeast Asia. Chicago: Art Media

Resources Ltd.

Hudson, Mark. 1999. Ruins of Identity: Ethnogenesis in the Japanese Islands. Honolulu:

University of Hawaii.

Liu, Li. 2004. The Chinese Neolithic: Trajectories to Early States. Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press.

Liu, Li and Chen, Xingcan. 2003. State Formation in Early China. London: Duckworth.
Mizoguchi Kōji. 2002. An Archaeological History of Japan: 30,000 B.C. to A.D. 300.

Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

… 2006. Archaeology, society and identity in modern Japan. Cambridge:

Cambridge UP.

Nelson, Sarah. 1993. The Archaeology of Korea. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Piggot, Joan 1997. The Emergence of Japanese Kingship. Stanford, Stanford University

Stark, Miriam ed. 2006. The Archaeology of Asia. Malden: Blackwell Publishing.

Thorp, Robert. 2006. The Early Chinese Bronze Age: Shang Civilization. Philadelphia:

University of Pennsylvania Press.

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