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Department of Archaeology



I am an archaeological scientist specialising in ancient glass with a broad geographical focus on the Silk Roads regions from the Mediterranean to China. I have analysed glass objects discovered in West, Central, East, and South Asia and investigated the production technology and socio-cultural roles of glass of the Silk Roads from the Iron Age to the medieval times. 

I was a physicist by training but was fascinated by archaeology. I obtained my B.Sc. from University of Science and Technology of China and PhD from Louisiana State University (USA), both in physics. Inspired by numerous synergies between science and archaeology, I have been applying physical science methods to characterise inorganic archaeological materials to understand ancient culture and technology. Before coming to Cambridge, I had previously gained experience in physics, geophysics and archaeological science in the US and China.

Q in my name is pronounced as ‘ch’.


I analyse the chemical and isotopic composition of ancient glass to understand its production technology and cultural/economic history. Incorporating archaeological contexts, analytical data and object typology, I probe into the evolution, transmission and regional adaptation of glass technology, including the procurement of raw materials from geo-environmental resources, and often discuss the inter-regional trade of glass products and the organisation of glass production. As glass was associated with extensive movement and involved in cultural and social life, I strive to engage glass material culture with the broader Silk Roads scholarship. I am also interested in developing novel methods for glass studies.

Additionally, I am broadly interested in related material cultures such as pottery, the application of novel computational methods, and the use of geochemistry and synchrotron-based spectroscopic methods in archaeology. 

At Cambridge, I am currently on MSCA Individual Fellowship (supported by UKRI), responsible for the project SILKGLASS - Production and Dispersion of Silk Road Glass in Central Asia. In collaboration with Prof Marcos Martinón-Torres, I currently work on developing strontium and neodymium isotopic approaches to examine glass technology and provenance and also seek to integrate cross-craft perspectives into the research on technological diffusion and innovation.

I was previously awarded a grant by the National Natural Science Foundation of China to explore materials science methods for the characterisation of glass beads. I have also received a grant from the Corning Museum of Glass.

Key Publications

Key publications: 

Peer reviewed journal articles

Xie, Z., Hu, Y., Shan, S., Lü, Q. Q., Yuan, F, Li, T. (2024) Changes and continuity in pottery production and use at Wujiafentou in the core zone of Youziling and Shijiahe cultures in central China. Heritage Science, 12(1), 64

Lü, Q. Q., Basafa, H., & Henderson, J. (2023). Connected in diversity: Isotopic analysis refines provenance for Islamic plant-ash glass from the eastern Silk Roads. iScience, 26(12).

Lü, Q. Q., Chen, Y. X., Henderson, J., & Bayon, G. (2023). A large-scale Sr and Nd isotope baseline for archaeological provenance in Silk Road regions and its application to plant-ash glass. Journal of Archaeological Science, 149, 105695.

Li, T., Li, P., Song, H., Xie, Z., Fan, W., & Lü, Q. Q. (2022). Pottery production at the Miaodigou site in central China: Archaeological and archaeometric evidence. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 41, 103301.

Lü, Q. Q., Henderson, J., Wang, Y., & Wang, B. (2021). Natron glass beads reveal proto-Silk Road between the Mediterranean and China in the 1st millennium BCE. Scientific Reports, 11(1), 3537.

Lü, Q. Q., & Wu, Y. (2019). LA-ICP-MS analysis of corroded glass beads from Southern China: tackling highly inhomogeneous archaeological glass. STAR: Science & Technology of Archaeological Research, 5(2), 53-63.

Lü, Q. Q., Patton, K. R., & Sheehy, D. E. (2014). Self-consistent Hartree-Fock approach for interacting bosons in optical lattices. Physical Review A, 90(6), 063625.

Lü, Q. Q., & Sheehy, D. E. (2013). Density profiles and collective modes of a Bose-Einstein condensate with light-induced spin-orbit coupling. Physical Review A, 88(4), 043645.

Book chapters

Lü, Q Q. (2024) Natron Glass and the Silk Roads in the 1st millennium BCE. In The Silk Roads: Cultural interactions, perceptions, and peripheries across Eurasia, 3000 BCE to the present. Henderson, J., Morgan, S. and Salonia, S. (Eds.) London: Routledge. (in press)

PhD Thesis

Phases of bosons in optical lattices and coupled to artificial gauge fields
(Louisiana State University Baton Rouge, 2014)

Teaching and Supervisions


I have been involved in the teaching of glass-related contents in MPhil and undergraduate courses.
I previously taught classes in archaeological science in USTC and physics in LSU. 
I previously founded and mentored the Student Association for History and Culture at USTC.

Job Titles

Marie Sklodowska-Curie European Fellow, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Fellow and Keeper of the Works of Art, St Edmund's College

General Info

Not available for consultancy
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Material Culture
Artefact Analysis & Technology

Contact Details

McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Downing Street


Person keywords: 
Silk Roads
Glass analysis
Material Culture
Isotope Analysis
Archaeological Science
Science, Technology and Innovation
Material Culture
Geographical areas: 
Central Asia
East Asia
Mesopotamia and the Near East
Periods of interest: 
Copper/Bronze Age
Iron Age
Other Historical