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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Miss Mocen Li, BA MA

Contact Miss Mocen Li (email at

Current Research Topic

The impact of civilisation on health: an evolutionary perspective from the rise of early civilisation in northern China to modern Chinese society



As the most important social development throughout human history, the rise of early civilisation marked the beginning of greater complexity, intellectual innovation, and successful competition with less complex societies (Trigger, 2003). However, a deterioration in human health has been linked to such civilised societies when compared to previous less complex ones (Cohen, 1989). To test such a hypothesis, this research is employing palaeopathological methods and a biocultural approach to examine disease patterns related to early civilisation in northern China. The skeletal remains studied come from the core region of Chinese civilisation. Palaeopathological data, including skeletal markers related to malnutrition and infectious diseases, are being recorded and analysed. Disease frequencies in people who lived in chiefdoms, and in early and preindustrial civilisations will be compared. The palaeopathological data will be considered with reference to modern Chinese public health data to evaluate the long-term health consequences of civilisation from an evolutionary perspective. The results from this research will shed light on human adaptive and interactive mechanisms under changing sociocultural systems. 


Teaching Areas

  • 2017/2018: Lab demonstrator for the MSc Palaeopathology module ‘Palaeopathology: Theory and Method’ at Durham University.

Selected Grants

  • 2017: Norman Richardson Postgraduate Research Fund by Ustinov College, Durham University.

Is supervised by