Institute of Archaeology


Xin Lin

Jade networks in Mesoamerica and early China

Portrait of Xin Lin

Email: xin.lin.18@ucl.ac.uk   
Section:  World Archaeology


Jade networks in Mesoamerica and early China

From a global perspective, the rise of complex societies was accompanied by an evident boost in the production, distribution, and consumption of prestige items, among which jade was explicitly devoted to ornaments, funerary rites and ritual conjuring of gods and ancestors with ideological significance. Known as the two most prosperous and influential jade-using civilisations composed of state-level polities, Mesoamerica and early China provide a comparable nexus for investigating symbolic meanings, elite power mechanisms and social changes in the formation of two early complex societies with similar social stratum on the ideological level.

A systematic and interdisciplinary research on sites and artefact assemblages of higher resolution is required to explore cross-cultural jade networks and the role of jade in the emergence and development of early civilisations. This has been preliminarily demonstrated in the MA dissertation through in-depth comparative case of jade in Maya and Liangzhu, the extend research scope covers the earlier symbolism antecedents back to Middle Formative Olmec and cultic Hongshan centres around Niuheliang in Middle Neolithic Northeast China, towards the continuity and change in the utilisation and representation of jade during succeeding stages of Terminal Classic Mesoamerica and Bronze Age China, through research perspectives of political economy, elite symbolism, and network analysis. The outcome would be a potential breaking point in the debate of early complex societies in relation to the ritualisation of prestige artefacts and an original contribution to both Pre-Columbian and Chinese jade studies.


  • BA, Archaeology, Peking University, 2018

  • MA, Archaeology, UCL, 2019

  • MSt, Archaeological Science, University of Oxford, 2020