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Prehistoric agriculture development in the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, southwest China: Archaeobotanical evidence

Li, H.M.; Zuo, X.X.; Kang, L.H.; Ren, L.L.; Liu, F.W.; Liu, H.G.; Zhang, N.M.; Min, R.; Liu, X.; Dong, G.H.

Science China-Earth Sciences 59(8): 1562-1573

2016


ISSN/ISBN: 1674-7313
DOI: 10.1007/s11430-016-5292-x
Accession: 066318463

The origin, development and expansion of prehistoric agriculture in East Asia have been widely investigated over the past two decades using archaeobotanical analysis from excavated Neolithic and Bronze Age sites. Research on prehistoric agriculture has predominantly focused in the valleys of the Yellow River and the Yangtze River. Agricultural development during the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods in the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau of southwest China, an important passageway for human migration into Southeast Asia, still remains unclear. In this paper, based on macrofossil and microfossil analysis and radiocarbon dating at the Shilinggang site, we investigate plant subsistence strategies in the Nujiang River valley during the Bronze Age period. Combined with previous archaeobotanical studies in the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, we explore agricultural development processes in this area during the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Our results indicate that rice and foxtail millet were cultivated in Shilinggang around 2500 cal a BP. Three phases of prehistoric agricultural development in the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau can be identified: rice cultivation from 4800-3900 cal a BP, mixed rice and millet crop ( foxtail millet and broomcorn millet) cultivation from 3900-3400 cal a BP, and mixed rice, millet crop and wheat cultivation from 3400-2300 cal a BP. The development of agriculture in the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau during the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods was primarily promoted by prehistoric agriculture expansion across Eurasia, agricultural expansion which was also affected by the topographic and hydrological characteristics of the area.

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