Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2020, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (9): 1451-1466.doi: 10.1007/s11442-020-1792-x

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Evolution of Neolithic site distribution (9.0-4.0 ka BP) in Anhui, East China

WU Li1,2(), SUN Xiaoling1, SUN Wei3, ZHU Cheng3,*(), ZHU Tongxin4, LU Shuguang1, ZHOU Hui1, GUO Qingchun5, GUAN Houchun6, XIE Wei1, KE Rui1, LIN Guiping1   

  1. 1. Provincial Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Regional Response in the Yangtze-Huaihe River Basin, School of Geography and Tourism, Anhui Normal University, Wuhu 241002, Anhui, China
    2. State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, CAS, Xi’an 710061, China
    3. School of Geography and Ocean Science, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210023, China
    4. Department of Geography, University of Minnesota Duluth, MN 55812, USA
    5. School of Environment and Planning, Liaocheng University, Liaocheng 252000, Shandong, China
    6. Geological Survey of Anhui Province, Hefei 230001, China
  • Received:2019-09-05 Accepted:2020-04-30 Online:2020-09-25 Published:2020-11-25
  • Contact: ZHU Cheng;
  • About author:Wu Li (1985–), Professor, specialized in environmental evolution and geoarchaeology. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(41771221);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41571179);Foundation of State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences(SKLLQG1851);China Postdoctoral Science Foundation(2018M632403);National Key Technologies R&D Program(2016YFA0600501);National Innovation Training Program for College Students(201810370207)


Based on archaeological surveys of Neolithic cultural development and GIS spatial analysis, this study reproduced the main characteristics of temporal distribution and settlement selection of the sites from the Neolithic Age in Anhui and identified a relationship between environmental evolution and human activity. The results show that altitude, slope direction, and slope gradient were consistent among the settlements at different stages of the Neolithic Age in Anhui, and the sites were mostly distributed in hilly and plain areas on southeast- or south-facing slopes of low gradients close to rivers. We determined that early Neolithic Age (9.0-7.0 ka BP) sites were scattered in small numbers and likely had little cultural exchange with communities of other provinces. The environmental characteristics of various regions in Anhui indicated that the climate was warm and humid with extensive water distribution. The sites of the mid Neolithic Age (7.0-5.0 ka BP) increased rapidly with wide distribution. They were mainly distributed in the plain area north of the Huaihe River and the southwestern areas of Anhui. In the mid Neolithic Age, the warm and humid climate gradually dried, and our ancestors slowly developed cultural exchanges. The largest number of sites existed during the late Neolithic Age (5.0-4.0 ka BP), and were distributed throughout the province. During this period, the overall climate was relatively dry, but humans could still obtain water and other resources through migration. The relatively benign climate facilitated cultural interaction and exchange, which increased during this time, and the Wanjiang culture matured. We also determined that as early civilization evolved, cultures in different regions responded differently to environmental changes. In humid subtropical regions, especially in low-lying plains and areas beside lakes, rivers, and coastal areas, the relatively dry climate in the late period of the middle Holocene, prefaced by a period of high humidity, was conducive to the development of human culture. The evidence from the Neolithic settlements in Anhui therefore reflects this subtropical man-land relationship between cultural development and environmental conditions.

Key words: Neolithic, spatial-temporal distribution pattern, man-land relationship, environmental archaeology, Anhui, East China