Department of Anthropology
Washington University in St. Louis
Campus Box 1114
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
I apply a number of archaeological approaches including stable isotope analysis and archaeobotany in order to explore two problems: the origin of modern food webs and food globalisation in prehistory.
Our modern food webs were shaped by two episodes of ‘food globalisation’ in the past. One was over the oceans, and the other was over the lands. Over the last 400 years, in the context of the ‘Columbian Exchange’, plants and animals originating from the Americas were brought to Eurasia, and Eurasian foods and diseases expanded to the New World. Earlier still, between c. 7,000 and 4,000 years ago, the Eurasian landmass underwent a tremendous exchange of cereal crops. For example, wheat and barley from southwest Asia expanded to East Asia during those millennia, and Chinese millets spread to Europe about the same time. My research interests have been focused on the timing, pathways and drivers of those prehistoric scenarios.
I am increasingly drawn to the problem of the ‘lost’ food traditions. More than 10,000 varieties of plant food have bolstered the diets of Homo sapiens at various times and places. But today’s food web, in calorific terms, is dominated by just three grasses: wheat, rice and maize. My current project is about the ‘missing’ half of the ancient cereals, particularly around 30 taxa originating from several continents and collectively known as ‘millet’, which sustained the ancient world from Africa to South and East Asia. They share some common features, such as small grains, short growing season, modest water requirements and C4 photosynthesis. When a food was lost in the past, were the memories associate with it lost too?
Liu XY, Reid RB, Lightfoot E, Motuzaite Matuzeviciute G, Jones MK (in press) Radical change and dietary conservatism: Mixing model estimates of human diets along the Inner Asia and China’s mountain corridors. The Holocene.
Ren X, Lemoine X, Mo D*, Kidder TR, Guo Y, Qin Z and Liu XY* (in press) Foothills and intermountain basins: Does China’s Fertile Arc have a ‘Hilly Flanks’? Quaternary International: doi: 10.1016/j.quaint.2016.04.001.
Liu XY, Margaritis E, Jones MK (in press) From the harvest to the meal in prehistoric China and Greece: A comparative approach to the social context of food. in Lloyd G, Dong Q, Zhao JJ (eds.) Ancient Greece and China Compared. Cambridge University Press.
Liu XY (in press) Staple isotope analysis of human and animal remains from Gangguya and Sabadongzi. In Li SC (ed.) Ganguya in Jiuquan. Beijing, Cultural Relics Publishing House.
Liu XY, Lister DL, Zhao Z, Staff RA, Jones P, Zhou L, Pokharia AK, Petrie CA, Pathak A, Lu H, Motuzaite Matuzeviciute G, Bates J, Lu H, Pilgram TK and Jones MK (2016) The virtues of small grain size: potential pathways to a distinguishing feature of Asian wheats. Quaternary International, available online, doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2016.02.059. (link)
Dong G, Ren L, Jia X, Liu XY, Dong S, Li H, Wang Z, Xiao Y and Chen F (2016) Chronology and subsistence strategy of Nuomuhong culture in Tibetan Plateau. Quaternary International, available online: doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2016.02.031. (link)
Dong GH*, Zhang DJ, Liu XY*, Liu FW, Chen FH and Jones MK (2015) Response to comment on “Agriculture facilitated permanent human occupation of the Tibetan Plateau after 3600 B.P.” Science, 348 (6237): 872-c. (link)
Liu XY, Fuller DQ and Jones MK (2015) Early agriculture in China. in Barker G and Goucher C (eds.) The Cambridge World History, Volume 2 A World With Agriculture, 12,000 BCE-500 CE. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. (link)
Liu XY, Zhao Z and Liu G (2015) Xinglonggou: the structure of Neolithic life. in Barker G and Goucher C (eds.) The Cambridge World History, Volume 2 A World With Agriculture, 12,000 BCE-500 CE. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. (link)
Zhang G, Wang S, Ferguson DK, Yang Y, Liu XY, Jiang H (2015) Ancient plant use and palaeoenvironmental analysis at the Gumugou Cemetery, Xinjiang, China: implication from desiccated plant remains. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, published online, doi: 10.1007/s12520-015-0246-3. (link)
Cui Y, Dong G, Li H, An T, Liu XY, Wang J, Wang H, Ren X, Li X and Chen F (2015) Early ceramic trade in Gansu and Qinghai regions, northwest China: A comparative elemental analysis on sherds of Majiayao culture, Yangshao culture and Qijia culture. Journal of Archaeological Science, Report 3: 65-72, published online, doi: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2015.05.018. (link)
Motuzaite Matuzeviciute G, Lightfoot E, O’Connell TC, Voyakin D, Liu XY, Svyatko S, Usmanova E and Jones MK (2015) The extent of cereal cultivation among the Bronze Age to Turkic period societies of Kazakhstan determined using stable isotope analysis of bone collagen. Journal of Archaeological Science, 59: 23-34. (link)
Chen FH, Dong GH, Zhang, DJ, Liu XY, Jia X, An CB, Ma MM, Xie YW, Barton L, Ren XY, Zhao ZJ, Wu XH and Jones MK (2015) Agriculture facilitated permanent human occupation of the Tibetan Plateau after 3600BP. Science, 347(6219): 248-250. (link)
Liu XY, Lightfoot E, O’Connell TC, Wang H, Li S, Zhou L, Hu Y, Motuzaite-Matuzeviciute G and Jones MK (2014) From necessity to choice: dietary revolutions in west China in the second millennium BC. World Archaeology, 46(5): 661-680. (link)
Liu XY and Jones MK (2014) Food globalization in prehistory: top down or bottom up? Antiquity, 88: 956-963. (link)
Liu XY and Jones MK (2014) Under one roof: people, crops and animals in Neolithic north China, in Boyle K, Rabett R and Hunt C (eds.) Living in the Landscape: Essays in Honour of Graeme Barker (McDonald Institute Monographs). Cambridge, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, p. 227-234. (link)
Lightfoot E, Liu XY and Jones MK (2013) Why move starchy cereals? A review of the isotopic evidence for prehistoric millet consumption across Eurasia. World Archaeology, 45: 574-623. (link)
Liu XY, Jones MK, Zhao Z, Liu G and O’Connell TC (2012) The earliest evidence of millet as a staple crop: new light on Neolithic foodways in North China. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 149(2): 283-290. (link)
Jones MK, Hunt H, Lightfoot E, Lister D, Liu XY and Motuzaite-Matuzeviciute G (2011) Food globalization in prehistory. World Archaeology 34(4): 665-675. (link)
Jones MK and Liu XY (2009) Origins of agriculture in East Asia. Science 324(5928): 730-731. (link)
Liu XY, Hunt HV and Jones MK (2009) River valleys and foothills: changing archaeological perceptions of North China’s earliest farms. Antiquity 83: 82-95. (link)
Hunt HV, Linder MV, Liu XY, Motuzaite Matuzeiciute G, Colledge S and Jones MK (2008) Millets across Eurasia: chronology and context of early records of the genera Panicum and Setaria from archaeological sites in the old world. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, 17: 5-14. (link)
Liu XY and Jones MK (2008) When archaeology begins: cultural and political context of Chinese archaeological thought. Bulletin of History of Archaeology, 18(1): 25-28. (link)