Holocene-aged inundation, vegetation, and early rice-based agriculture on former settlement sites on the Southern Yangtze Delta of China: a geoarchaeological investigation
The project examined the influence of Holocene environmental change upon early rice-based agriculture on the southern Yangtze Delta, China, a location central to domestication of rice and development of Neolithic agriculture. Palaeoecological (pollen, diatoms, phytoliths, and charcoal) and physical (particle size) proxies in sediment sequences recovered from three archaeological sites — Majiabang, Liangzhu, and Chuodun — were analysed for a reconstruction of both environmental and cultural history on the Delta throughout much of the Holocene. The ages of the sequences were estimated through AMS radiocarbon dating. Changes in hydrology, linked to sea level variations and geomorphic evolution of the deltaic system, were recognised as a more direct environmental factor having influenced early agriculture and Neolithic settlements on the Delta than the previously suggested factor of climatic change. The research has also established the first Bayesian model-based archaeological chronology for the Lower Yangtze region, based on 129 radiometric dates (radiocarbon and luminescence) from a dataset totalling 252 dates from the region. Having identified notable overlaps between different archaeological cultural phases, the result challenged the traditional concept where cultural phases in the Lower Yangtze were considered temporally separate. Also, Holocene erosion history of the Yangtze Delta catchment was reconstructed by a systematic investigation into temporal distribution of radiocarbon dates. The research was financially supported by the Irish Research Council and also received an award from Royal Irish Academy and Queen’s University Belfast to radiometrically dating sediment sequences in the project. Currently the project has led to a paper on The Holocene, and a manuscript under review by Journal of Archaeological Science. Another manuscript will be submitted in coming weeks.
The PhD project was supervised by Prof.David Taylor and Dr. Robin Edwards in the Department of Geography, and benefited from wide cooperation with colleagues in China and Australia.
List of publications from the project
Long, T., Qin, J., Atahan, P., Mooney, S., Taylor, D., 2014. Rising waters: new geoarchaeological evidence of inundation and early agriculture from former settlement sites on the southern Yangtze Delta, China. The Holocene 24 (5), 546-558.
Long, T., Taylor, D., (Under review). A revised chronology for the archaeology of the lower Yangtze, China, based on Bayesian statistical modelling. Journal of Archaeological Science.
Long, T., Hunt, C.O., Taylor, D., (Submitted). Late onset for agricultural intensification on the southern Yangtze Delta, China. The Holocene.