Research Articles

Settlement distribution and its relationship with environmental changes from the Neolithic to Shang-Zhou dynasties in northern Shandong, China

  • 1. Laboratory for Earth Surface Process, Ministry of Education, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China;
    2. College of Marine Sciences, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing 210044, China;
    3. Shandong Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Jinan 250012, China;
    4. School of Archaeology and Museology, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
Guo Yuanyuan (1983-), Ph.D Candidate, specialized in environmental change and environmental archaeology.E-mail:

Received date: 2013-03-05

  Revised date: 2013-03-30

  Online published: 2013-08-15

Supported by

Major Program of National Social Science Foundation of China, No.11&ZD183; Youth Fund of National Natural Science Foundation of China, No. 40901012;National Key Technology R&D Program of China, No.2013BAK08B02; National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41171006; No.41271228


In this paper, the spatial and temporal distribution of the settlement sites of six periods from the Neolithic Age to the Shang and Zhou dynasties in northern Shandong was investigated using the ArcGIS program, and the relationship between settlement distribution and environmental changes was discussed, based on the proxy records of climatic and environmental change contained in the sediments from three sections at the Shuangwangcheng site and the previous work. The results show that the climate was warm and humid and the sea level was relatively high during the period of 8000-5000 a BP in the study area, and the ancient people lived in the relatively flat (slope of <2°) areas at high elevation (20-300 m above sea level), such as diluvial tableland and alluvial plain. On the other hand, few archaeological sites in the low-lying plain in the west of the study area indicate that few people lived there during that period. This might be attributed to frequent flooding in the area. After 5000 years ago, the scope of human activity extended to the area close to the sea because the relatively colder and drier climate results in sea-level fall, meanwhile the low-lying plain in the west was occupied by the ancient people. The study area of this period was characterized by the rapid development of prehistoric culture, the intensified social stratification and the emergence of early city-states. However, around 4000 a BP, the abrupt change in climate and the increase in frequency and intensity of floods severely disrupted human activities, and eventually led to the decline of the Yueshi culture. During the Shang and Zhou dynasties, the climatic conditions gradually stabilized in a mild-dry state, which promoted the redevelopment and flourish of the Bronze Culture. The previous situation, which was characteristic of sparse human settlements due to freshwater shortage and unfitted conditions for sedentary agriculture, changed during the Shang and Zhou dynasties in northern coastal wetlands.Local residents effectively adapted themselves to the tough environmental conditions by producing sea-salt, which led to the rapid growth of human activities.

Cite this article

GUO Yuanyuan, MO Duowen, MAO Longjiang, WANG Shougong, LI Shuicheng . Settlement distribution and its relationship with environmental changes from the Neolithic to Shang-Zhou dynasties in northern Shandong, China[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2013 , 23(4) : 679 -694 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-013-1037-3


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