Date of Award

Summer 2009

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

East Asian Languages & Civilizations

First Advisor

Paul R. Goldin

Second Advisor

Victor H. Mair

Third Advisor

Bryan K. Hanks


This thesis employs an integrated approach of the historical and archaeological evidence relevant to the study of the Xiongnu empire (3rd century BC – 1st century AD) in an attempt to construct new contexts of understanding the political strategies for securing and ensuring power, legitimacy, and authority in the steppes. I have relied upon the full corpus of Chinese records which address the Xiongnu entity, synthesized the entirety of excavated materials in China, South Siberia, and Mongolia which relate to the Xiongnu phenomenon, and incorporated new survey and excavation data from two regions of the Xiongnu empire. Through the course of the dissertation, I utilize a paradigm of imperial strategies, rather than typologies of imperial polities, in order to provide a less restrictive manner of reconstructing the power politics of the steppe empire. A diachronic consideration of the combined textual narratives and archaeological materials exhibits two distinct periods of the Xiongnu polity. This dissertation focuses on the shifts between these two periods and the resulting new traditions that sought to distinguish and elevate restricted ranks of the imperial élite and assert a cosmopolitan culture of steppe empire that together would ensure authority and control both within the empire and toward its neighbors.

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