Associate Professor of Anthropology and of the Social Sciences in the College; Director of Graduate Studies

PhD, University of Michigan, 2008

On leave 2022-23

Alice Yao focuses her research on the impact of the Han Empire's conquest of frontier regions and seeks to explain the variable ways different communities and social classes respond to momentous changes in local history. Currently she is conducting an archaeological survey project in Southwestern China, which aims to recover the settlement sites of a local Bronze Age polity known as the "Dian" before its incorporation by the Han Empire. This ongoing project investigates the genesis of the Dian polity in relation to control over bronze production and the regional trade network developing between China and Southeast Asia.

Contact Information

Office: Haskell 318
Phone: (773) 702-8674

Watch Alice Yao discuss her research in southwest China

Selected Publications

Mapping past human land use using archaeological data: A new classification for global land use synthesis and data harmonization. PLOS ONE.

A 17,000-year multi-proy study of the Indian Summer Monsoon from Lake Dian, Yunnan, China. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatolog, Palaeoecology.

Vegetation, climage, and human impact since 20ka in central Yunnan Province based on high-resolution pollen and charcoal record from Dianchi. Quaternary Science Reviews.

Hillman, A. L., Yao, A., Abbott, M. B., & Bain, D. J. Two millennia of anthropogenic landscape modification and nutrient loading at Dian Lake, Yunnan Province, China. The Holocene, 29(3), 505–517.

Dongson/Dian Archaeology in Regional Context. In J. Habu, P. Lape, J. Olsen, Zhicun Jing, eds., Handbook of East and Southeast Asian Archaeology. Springer Press.

Politics of Time on the Southwest Frontier of China's Han Empire. American Anthropologist, 119 (1).

The Ancient Highlands of Southwest China: An Archaeological History from the Bronze Age to the Han Empire. Oxford University Press.

Book cover of "The Ancient Highlands of Southwest China"

(w/ Jiang Zhilong and Chen Xuexiang) Wet/Landscapes of Bronze Age Polities in the Subtropical Uplands of Southwest Yunnan, 900-100 B.C. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, (2015).

Investigations into the Elemental Composition of Earthenware Vessels from the Guthe Philippine Collection using Neutron Activation Analysis. Asian Perspectives, 52 (1): 12-27.

Engendering the Ancestors: Observations from Ancient China's Funerary Rituals. In S. Tarlow & L.N. Stutz, eds., Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Death and Burial. Oxford University Press, 581-596.

Discovering the Elusive Bronze Age Settlements of the "Dian" Kingdom, China. (w/ Jiang Zhilong). Antiquity, 86: 353-363

Sarmatian Mirrors and Han Ingots (100 BC - AD 100): How the Foreign became Local and Vice Versa. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 2:57-70.

Recent Developments in the Archaeology of Southwestern China. Journal of Archaeological Research, 18: 203-239.

Culture Contact and Social Change along Ancient China's Southwestern Frontier, 900 BC - AD 100. PhD Dissertation, University of Michigan.

Precipitating Change or Sustaining Traditions: Social Patterns of a Bronze Age Community from the Upper Pearl River Drainage in Yunnan before Han Imperial Period. Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association, 28: 23-33.

Scratching beneath Iconographic and Textual Clues: A Reconsideration of the Social Hierarchy in the Dian Culture of Southwestern China. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 24: 378-405.