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Journal of Geographical Sciences    2014, Vol. 24 Issue (4) : 669-688     DOI: 10.1007/s11442-014-1112-4
Research Articles |
Impact of Holocene climate change on the prehistoric cultures of Zhejiang region, East China
Li WU1,2(),Cheng ZHU*2(),Chaogui ZHENG3,Chunmei MA2,Xinhao WANG4,Feng LI2,Bing LI2,Kaifeng LI2
1. College of Territorial Resources and Tourism, Anhui Normal University, Wuhu 241003, Anhui, China
2. School of Geographic and Oceanographic Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210023, China
3. Geographic Information and Tourism College, Chuzhou University, Chuzhou 239000, Anhui, China
4. School of Earth Sciences and Engineering, Hohai University, Nanjing 210098, China
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The temporal-spatial distribution features of prehistoric cultures since the Holocene in Zhejiang region were comparatively analyzed based on GIS spatial analysis. Results show that the prehistoric cultures expanded gradually in this region before 4000 cal. a BP. The notable expansions occurred twice, one in the Majiabang-Hemudu cultural period, the other in the Liangzhu cultural period. Meanwhile, the prehistoric cultures were disseminated from west to east coast along river valleys. After 4000 cal. a BP, as represented by the Maqiao Culture, the distributed area of each prehistoric culture contracted. This is obviously due to the termination of spreading trends to east coast, which was simultaneously accompanied by two different modes of production and economic transitions in the north and south Zhejiang region respectively. The distribution of prehistoric cultures was closely related with Holocene sea-level fluctuations, especially on the banks of Hangzhou Bay, where the distribution changes of prehistoric cultural sites were greatly affected by sea-level changes, with the closest relationships between them. After 7000 cal. a BP, the process of lowered sea-level and regression-epeirogenesis provided wider terrestrial living spaces for prehistoric inhabitants. Based on the comparative analyses of the changes of prehistoric cultures and the environmental evolution information recorded in the Qianmutian subalpine peat of Mt. Tianmu and muddy area on the inner shelf of the East China Sea, it is indicated that the changes of prehistoric cultures were synchronized with environmental changes in Zhejiang region. Before 4000 cal. a BP, the eastward expansion of prehistoric cultures in Zhejiang occurred under the background of the Holocene Optimum, and was the expansion and extension under the joint influences of agricultural civilization and maritime civilization. However, after 4000 cal. a BP, the geographical contraction of prehistoric cultures in Zhejiang occurred under the background of dry-cold climate trend and deterioration of coastal marine environment. It is evidenced from the above fact that the development, expansion and contraction of prehistoric cultures are positively correlated to environmental change. The change of the climatic environment is just the underlying reason for these changes and transitions of production modes and economic forms. Therefore, the climatic environment is the dominant factor of prehistoric culture vicissitudes in Zhejiang region, which has exerted great influence on distribution, dissemination, expansion and transmutation of the culture.

Keywords Zhejiang      climate change      prehistoric culture      Holocene     
Fund:National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41171163.No.41271516.Major Program of National Social Science Foundation of China, No.11&ZD183.National Key Technology R&D Program of China, No.2013BAK08B02.Open Foundation of State Key Laboratory of Lake Science and Environment, Nanjing Institute of Geography & Limnology, CAS, No.2012SKL003.Open Foundation of State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, CAS, No.SKLLQG1206.Doctoral Scientific Research Foundation of Anhui Normal University, No.161-070143
About author: Wu Li (1985-), PhD and Lecturer, specialized in geomorphology and Quaternary environmental archaeology. E-mail:
Issue Date: 09 July 2015
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Cheng ZHU
Chaogui ZHENG
Chunmei MA
Xinhao WANG
Feng LI
Bing LI
Kaifeng LI
Cite this article:   
Li WU,Cheng ZHU,Chaogui ZHENG, et al. Impact of Holocene climate change on the prehistoric cultures of Zhejiang region, East China[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2014, 24(4): 669-688.
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Figure 1  Archaeological sites of Zhejiang region in the early Neolithic period (11400-7500 cal. a BP)
Figure 2  Archaeological sites of Zhejiang region in the middle Neolithic period (7000-5300 cal. a BP)
Figure 3  Archaeological sites of Zhejiang region in the late Neolithic period (5300-4000 cal. a BP)
Figure 4  Archaeological sites of Zhejiang region in the Xia and Shang dynasties (3900-3300 cal. a BP)
Figure 5  Holocene stratigraphic correlation among the three profiles (Xianghu section, T0412 profile of Kuahuqiao cultural site and HI core of Hemudu cultural site) associated with their calibrated radiocarbon ages in the Ningshao Plain
Figure 6  Environmental changes of Zhejiang around 4000 cal. a BP recorded by the Qianmutian subalpine peat in Mt. Tianmu (a) and the muddy area on the inner shelf of the East China Sea (b)
Cultural period Cultural category Number of sites Proportion (%) Total number of sites
Shangshan-Xiaohuangshan Shangshan 1 50 2
Xiaohuangshan 1 50
Kuahuqiao Kuahuqiao 1 100 1
Majiabang-Hemudu Majiabang 41 55.4 74
Hemudu 33 44.6
Songze-Hemudu Songze 28 45.9 61
Hemudu 33 54.1
Liangzhu Liangzhu 275 58.4 471
Others 196 41.6
Maqiao Maqiao 34 37.8 90
Others 56 62.2
Table 1  Prehistoric cultures of Zhejiang region and the number of archaeological sites
Cultural period Animal names
Pig Elaphursu davidianus Cervus nippon Small cervid animals
Liangzhu Culture 50 6.25 25 12.5
Early Maqiao Culture 15.78 14 33.3 29.8
Late Maqiao Culture 27.5 8.4 32.6 25
Table 2  Minimum individual proportions (%) of pig and cervid animals excavated from Liangzhu and Maqiao cultures
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