Orginal Article

Geographic distribution of archaeological sites and their response to climate and environmental change between 10.0-2.8 ka BP in the Poyang Lake Basin, China

  • XU Jiajia , 1, 2 ,
  • *JIA Yulian , 2 ,
  • MA Chunmei 1 ,
  • *ZHU Cheng , 1 ,
  • WU Li 3 ,
  • LI Yuyuan 4 ,
  • WANG Xinhao 5
  • 1. School of Geographic and Oceanographic Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210046, China
  • 2. Key Laboratory of Poyang Lake Wetland and Watershed Research, Ministry of Education; School of Geography and Environment, Jiangxi Normal University, Nanchang 330022, China
  • 3. College of Territorial Resources and Tourism, Anhui Normal University, Wuhu 241002, Anhui, China
  • 4. Jiangxi Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Nanchang 330003, China
  • 5. College of Hydrology and Water Resources, Hohai University, Nanjing 210098, China

Author: Xu Jiajia, PhD Candidate, specialized in environmental archaeology. E-mail:

*Corresponding author: Jia Yulian (1971-), Professor, E-mail: . Zhu Cheng (1954-), Professor, E-mail:

Received date: 2015-08-28

  Accepted date: 2016-01-06

  Online published: 2016-05-25

Supported by

National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41371204, No.41571179

Major Program of the National Social Science Foundation of China, No.11&ZD183

The Collaborative Innovation Center for Major Ecological Security Issues of Jiangxi Province and Monitoring Implementation, No.JXS-EW-00


Journal of Geographical Sciences, All Rights Reserved


The temporal-spatial geographic distribution of archaeological sites and its feature between 10.0-2.8 ka BP (ka BP= thousands of years before 0 BP, where “0 BP” is defined as the year AD 1950) were determined, based on GIS spatial analysis in the Poyang Lake Basin. The relationship between geographic distribution of sites of different periods under subsistence existence of ancient civilizations, climate and environmental change was investigated. The results revealed numerous archaeological sites of the Neolithic Age (10.0-3.6 ka BP). The sites were mainly located in the northern part of the Poyang Lake Basin, a hilly and mountainous area with many river terraces suitable for the development of human civilization. The number of archaeological sites rapidly increased during the Shang and Zhou dynasties (3.6-2.8 ka BP) and spread widely on the floodplains of the middle and lower reaches of Ganjiang River and onto the west, south, and southeast beach areas of the Poyang Lake. Holocene records of climate change suggested that it was possible that climate fluctuations had a great impact on human evolution in the study area. Before 3.6 ka BP, westward and northward expansion of Neolithic cultures in the Poyang Lake watershed occurred under the background of climate amelioration (becoming warmer and wetter). The ancient people lived in the hilly areas with high elevation. The simple mode of a fishing and gathering economy was mostly suited to this area in the early Neolithic Age. The scope of human activities was expanded and cultural diversity developed in the late Neolithic Age. However, with population growth and increasing survival pressure in a dry-cold climatic stage after 3.6 ka BP, this simple living mode had to be abandoned, and various forms of economy, the majority being agriculture, were developed on flood plains of the lower reaches of numerous rivers around Poyang Lake. This promoted flourishing of the Bronze culture of South China.

Cite this article

XU Jiajia , *JIA Yulian , MA Chunmei , *ZHU Cheng , WU Li , LI Yuyuan , WANG Xinhao . Geographic distribution of archaeological sites and their response to climate and environmental change between 10.0-2.8 ka BP in the Poyang Lake Basin, China[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2016 , 26(5) : 603 -618 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-016-1288-x

1 Introduction

Environmental archaeology has been developing rapidly as a cross-discipline during the past decade, largely spurred by the advance of research in Quaternary geology, archaeology, and palynology (Evans et al., 2014; Oonk and Spijker, 2015; Mayle and Iriarte, 2014; Grahn et al., 2013; Innes et al., 2014; Xu et al., 2015). This has promoted research of the relationship between palaeoenvironmental changes and regional ancient cultures (Haug et al., 2003; Kuper and Kropelin, 2006; Oinonen et al., 2014). During prehistoric times of relatively low productivity, human ancestors relied heavily on the physical environment. Therefore, climate change may have exerted great impact on the evolution of regional ancient cultures by affecting living conditions and natural resources. Using data on temporal-spatial distribution of archaeological sites of cultures on a regional/sub-regional scale and records of climate change may be an effective way to study human-environment interactions, especially in arid and subarid northern China and flood plain areas of the Yangtze River (Guo et al., 2013; 2014; Gao et al., 2009; Wu et al., 2011; Li et al., 2013; Li et al., 2014; Zhu et al., 2014). Both of these areas are sensitive to summer monsoonal climate change in East Asia (Zhang et al., 2011; Chen et al., 2015a, 2015b; Xie et al., 2013; Liu et al., 2014; Zhang et al., 2013; Wu et al., 2012).
The Poyang Lake Basin, located in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, enjoyed a splendid ancient culture during the late Holocene (Liu, 2000), as did other parts of the Yangtze River Basin (Duan, 2003; Sun and Gao, 2006; Chen, 2005). The Xianrendong cave site and the Diaotonghuan site of the early Neolithic period may be the earliest ruins of paleo-rice and pottery in East Asia known at present, suggesting that this catchment may be one source of Chinese rice agriculture (Peng and Zhou, 2004). Development of the Neolithic cultures was slow during the middle Neolithic stage; however, during this stage, diverse cultural types emerged and speeded up steadily toward the late Neolithic stage. The Shang and Zhou dynasties in the Poyang Lake Basin flourished as the best-developed Bronze culture in South China (Liu, 1993; Long et al., 1992; Xu, 1987). Present-day environmental archaeological investigation has been intensively conducted in the Yangtze River basin (Zhu et al., 2005; 2007; Zheng et al., 2008; Zhu et al., 2005a; Li et al., 2013; Wu et al., 2014a, 2014b). However, because the Poyang Lake Basin is mountainous, how were the archaeological sites distributed geographically, and what was their response to climate and environmental change from 10.0-2.8 ka BP? This study focuses on analyzing distribution and evolution of culture to clarify the relationship between subsistence models of ancient inhabitants and Holocene climate change.

2 Study area

The Poyang Lake, with an area of 3100 km2 and at an elevation of 18.4 m (Yellow Sea elevation system) is the largest fresh water lake in China (Figure 1). Its catchment has an area of 162.200 km2, accounting for nearly 97% of the entire area of Jiangxi Province. The dustpan-like basin is surrounded by high mountains except for the north side, which slopes gradually downward from the south, to the north at Poyang Lake beach, with the lowest elevation of 15 m. Five large rivers, Xiuhe River, Ganjiang River, Fuhe River, Xinjiang River, and Raohe River, flow into Poyang Lake. Water flows from the lake into the Yangtze River through Lake Mouth (Hukou). This hydrological pattern constitutes the relatively complete Poyang Lake water system (Qiu et al., 2006).
Figure 1 Sketch map of the location of the entire Poyang Lake Basin showing the water systems and major cities
The climate of the region is humid subtropical and is strongly influenced by the East Asian Monsoon regime (summer monsoon and winter monsoon included). The mean annual temperature is approximately 17-20℃, with July mean temperatures of 29-32℃ and January mean temperatures of 3.0-5.0℃. Annual precipitation is approximately 1300-1900 mm, most of which falls between April and September as the summer monsoon intensifies.

3 Materials and methods

The essential materials used for developing a distribution map of archaeological sites include two spatial data sources: one is a Digital Elevation Model (DEM), with a resolution of 90 m×90 m downloaded from the International Scientific Data Service Platform; the other is the position data of archaeological sites, mainly provided by Jiangxi Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology and others from reports and published papers on archaeological excavation. Totally, there are 597 archaeological sites from the Neolithic Age and the Shang and Zhou dynasties in the Poyang Lake Basin, with 110 Neolithic Age sites and 487 sites from the Shang and Zhou dynasties. Based on chronological sequences (Peng, 1981a, 1981b; Li, 1982; Li et al., 1986a, 1986b; Xiao, 1991; Liu, 1993; Zhong, 2007), these archaeological sites are classified into four groups: early Neolithic Age (10-8.0 ka BP), including the Xianrendong culture; middle Neolithic Age (8.0-4.8 ka BP), including the Shinianshan culture, Zhengjia’ao culture, and Shanbei culture; late Neolithic Age (4.8-3.6 ka BP), including the Zhuweicheng-Fanchengdui culture and Sheshantou culture; Shang and Zhou dynasties (3.6-2.8 ka BP), including the Wucheng culture and Wannian culture (see Table 1).
Table 1 Radiocarbon and thermoluminescence ages of archaeological sites used in this study from the Poyang Lake Basin
All of the Neolithic cultural sites and the Shang and Zhou dynasties cultural sites referred to in this paper were plotted on the relief map. The mapping steps were as follows: manual registration of the topographic and drainage map, 90-m resolution DEM data and sites of different periods of the Poyang Lake Basin were implemented and digitalized using ArcGIS first; then distribution maps of cultural sites were plotted on the relief map of different elevation layers and colours (Figure 2). Finally, the relationship between human activity and climate change from the Neolithic Age to the Shang and Zhou dynasties in the study area was analyzed.
Figure 2 Archaeological sites of the Poyang Lake Basin: (a) in the Neolithic period (10.0-3.6 ka BP) and (b) in the Shang and Zhou dynasties (3.6-2.8 ka BP)

4 Results

4.1 Distribution of archaeological sites at different elevations

Distribution of archaeological sites at various elevations is presented in Table 2. Sites of the Xianrendong culture (early Neolithic culture) were concentrated in the areas with elevations of 50-200 m. At the stage of the middle Neolithic culture, approximately 43.7% of the sites were distributed in areas with elevation of 50-200 m, and 31.3% at the elevations lower than 50 m, the other 25% at the elevations of 200-500 m. At the period of the Late Neolithic cultures, 40.2% of the sites were distributed at elevations lower than 50 m, 52.2% at elevations between 50 and 200 m, and only 7.6% (seven sites) in areas above 200 m in elevation. These implied that the number and density of sites at the stage of late Neolithic cultures increased substantially, and more of them were located at lower elevations, compared with the stage of the middle Neolithic culture. Generally, at the stage of the Neolithic culture, 38.1% of the sites were located in areas with an elevation lower than 50 m, 51.8% of the sites were located at the elevations between 50 and 200 m, and 10% of the sites were located at elevations above 200 m. During the period of the Shang and Zhou dynasties, the number of sites in areas with an elevation lower than 50 m increased to 228 (46.8%); 212 sites (43.5%) and 47 sites (9.7%) were located at elevations between 50 and 200 m and at elevations higher than 200 m, respectively. From the Neolithic Age to Shang and Zhou dynasties, more and more sites moved from the high altitude hilly environment to the low altitude of river terraces and flood plains.
Table 2 Altitude distribution of the Neolithic and Shang-Zhou cultural sites in the Poyang Lake Basin
Cultural type Total <50 m 50-200 m 200-500 m
Xianrendong 2 0 2 0
Shinianshan 8 2 2 4
Zhengjia’ao 6 2 4 0
Shanbei 2 1 1 0
Zhuweicheng-Fanchengdui 78 35 41 2
Sheshantou 14 2 7 5
Wucheng 342 171 134 37
Wannian 145 57 78 10

4.2 Temporal-spatial variations of archaeological sites

4.2.1 Early Neolithic Age (10.0-8.0 ka BP)
Only two early Neolithic sites, which belonged to the Xianrendong culture, have been discovered and excavated, i.e., the Diaotonghuan site and Xianrenrong site (Peng and Zhou, 2004), both located in the little intermontane basin southeast of the Poyang Lake (Figure 2a). The Xianrendong culture, with chipped and polished stone and sandy pottery, was the earliest Neolithic culture of the Poyang Lake Basin, and it was typical of cave culture in southern China (Peng, 1981a, 1981b). These two neighbouring sites are situated 1 km away from each other. One site (Xianrendong) is located at the foot of a limestone hill 35 m away from a small stream and 3 m higher than its present usual water surface. The other site (Diaotonghuan) is located at the top of a small hill 30 m high and above the previously mentioned stream. The sites were probably located here and selected for settlements by ancient people due to convenient water taking and flood avoiding (Guo and Li, 1963; Zhao, 2000). Many animal bones, snails, mussels, fish bones, and other remains excavated at the sites demonstrated that hunting and gathering could have been the main production and living styles of ancient people of that time (Zhong, 1996).
4.2.2 Middle Neolithic Age (8.0-4.8 ka BP)
There are eight sites of the Shinianshan culture, six sites of the Zhengjia’ao culture, and two sites of the Shanbei culture in the middle Neolithic period (Figure 2a). The archaeological sites of the Shinianshan culture are sparsely distributed in the west of the Poyang Lake and along the middle and lower reaches of the Ganjiang River area between elevations of 50 and 500 m. During the Shinianshan Age, the production mode gradually changed from gathering, fishing, and hunting to primitive farming (Liu, 1992b). The Zhengjia’ao cultural sites, with distribution similar to the Shinianshan cultural sites, are also sparsely distributed in the west and south of the Poyang Lake. The Zhengjia’ao culture is a subcultural type of the Xuejiagang culture in southern Anhui Province, influenced deeply by the surrounding culture, such as the Qujialing and Songze culture, which gave the Zhengjia’ao culture more local characteristics that differed from its mother culture in Anhui (Peng, 1981a; Zhong and Peng, 2008). Only two sites of the Shanbei culture, a more local culture, were found, both located in the catchment of Xiushui River, west of the Poyang Lake. During this period the settlement areas were no longer confined to caves. Some geomorphologic landscape, such as river terraces, foothills and little intermontane basins, were gradually chosen for human inhabitation, suggesting the beginning of the Agrarian Revolution in the Poyang Lake Basin.
4.2.3 Late Neolithic Age (4.8-3.6 ka BP)
Seventy-eight sites of Zhuweicheng-Fanchengdui culture and 14 sites of Sheshantou culture of the late Neolithic period were excavated (Figure 2a). The Zhuweicheng-Fanchengdui cultural sites were widely distributed on flood plains around Poyang Lake and in the middle and lower reaches of the Ganjiang River, Fuhe River and Xiushui River. The concentrate area of the Zhuweicheng-Fanchengdui culture was situated in the middle and lower reaches of the Ganjiang River and the lower reaches of Xiushui River, bordering Poyang Lake to the west and north. At the same time, another regional culture, called the Sheshantou culture, had been developing sites to the northeast and east of Poyang Lake and showed similar geographic distribution as the Zhuweicheng-Fanchengdui cultural sites. Many types of complicated stone and ceramic tools, and various edible plants indicated a more developed stage of regional cultures (Peng, 1981a; Zhong and Peng, 2008).
4.2.4 Shang and Zhou dynasties (3.6-2.8 ka BP)
There are 487 sites of Shang and Zhou dynasties excavated in the Poyang Lake Basin (Figure 2b) belonging to Wucheng culture and Wannian culture. Many of the sites were inherited from the Zhuweicheng-Fanchengdui culture. Wucheng culture was the most widely distributed pre-historic culture in the Poyang Lake Basin, and the number of sites found at present is 342. The sites are distributed at the west and southwest of Poyang Lake with two centres of location, one on the southwestern beach of the Poyang Lake and the other in the Xinyu region between the Ganjiang River and Xinjiang River (Figure 2b). Additionally, 145 sites of Wannian culture of Shang and Zhou dynasties were found on the eastern flood plains of the Poyang Lake, indicating a similar geographic distribution as Wucheng culture. Wannian culture was contiguous with the bronze culture, such as Zhejiang’s High Altar, Shanghai’s Maqiao culture, and Huangtulun culture (Zhong and Peng, 2008). Wucheng culture, represented by the Wucheng site, was one of the most advanced bronze cultures in South China (Peng, 1981a; Zhong and Peng, 2008).

4.3 Subsistence models of regional culture

4.3.1 Characteristics of production artefacts
Production tools are relevant to the way humans lived and could be used to determine the mode of economics. Many utensils were excavated from the Xianrendong, Shinianshan, Zhuweicheng, and Wucheng sites (Table 3) (Guo and Li, 1963; JPICRA., 1991; Li and Yu, 1976; Li et al., 1982; Zhou et al., 1993; Peng and Li, 1975; JPICRA., 1995; Peng et al., 1991).
Table 3 Production and living tools unearthed at typical sites in the Poyang Lake Basin (Guo and Li, 1963; Liu and Li, 1991; Li and Yu, 1976; Li et al., 1982; Zhou et al., 1993; Peng and Li, 1975; JPICRA, 1995; Peng et al., 1991)
Type Shapes Early Neolithic period Middle
Neolithic period
Late Neolithic period Shang and Zhou dynasties
Celt 1 4 1 21
Tapered pike 8 1 12
Stepped adze 2 90 15 13
Stone axe 17 17 39
Hoe 2
Drill 4 2 1
Shovel 2 24 2
Knife 19 11 70
Millstone 3
Dagger-axe 33
Sickle 7
Stone mould 9
Plough 2
Fishing and
hunting tools
Osteotome 1
Fish fork 1
Arrowhead 3 83 48 138
Hole puncher 40 19
Burr 6 183 10
Spear 4 37
Net 1 2 43
Pie tools 9
Life tools Bone needle 7
Bone awl 27
Frotton 2 1
Ding 134 281 32
Cup 97 12 31
Pot 4 11 61
Spinning wheel 37 27 23
Cooking tripod 125
Table 3 shows that the amount of fishing and hunting tools was much larger than agricultural productive tools in the early Neolithic period, demonstrating that fishing and gathering (paddy gathering included) were the main context of economic production. During the middle Neolithic period, the amount of agricultural production tools increased significantly, while fishing and hunting tools increased simultaneously, indicating a mixed mode of production of farming, fishing and hunting. The amount of production tools declined in the late Neolithic period for a few excavated sites, but the amount of farming and domestic tools increased more than the amount of fishing and hunting tools, indicating that agriculture was the dominant type of production. A large quantity of spinning tools was unearthed in the middle-late Neolithic era, showing that the textile and handicraft industry had been created and was a very important part of the life at that time. Meanwhile, dings, cups, and pot tools increased substantially, revealing a more extensive community life than previously. During the Shang and Zhou dynasties, a diversity of tools for farming were developed, suggesting extensive farming activities, which implied farming was probably the primary production activity, while fishing and hunting activities were also important ways of production.
4.3.2 Agricultural development
The early Neolithic sites had remains of paddies, indicating that this area might be one of the origins of rice agriculture in China (Peng and Zhou, 2004; Zhao, 1998). A large number of agricultural implements, pottery, and a mix of grass and mud, mingled with rice husk and rice straw and dated to 5000 a BP (Table 1), were unearthed at the Shanbei site. These findings suggested that the ancient people lived a sedentary life, relying on primitive farming (Peng, 1981a; Zhong and Peng, 2008). Based on records of starch grains at the Shinianshan, Zhuweicheng, Fanchengdui, Yinjiaping, and Sheshantou sites (Figure 3) (Wan et al., 2012a, 2012b), food composition of the ancient inhabitants in the 5000-3500 a BP was assessed: First, except for the Sheshantou site (4.5-3.5 ka BP), starch grains (Oryza spp., Triticeae, Coix spp., roots and tubers included) were generally common at the Shinianshan, Zhuweicheng, Fanchengdui, and Yinjiaping sites (5.0-4.0 ka BP). Setaria spp. was not found (Figure 3) with the highest proportion of Triticeae and Coix spp., which were the major food source in this period. Second, Rice (Oryza spp.) remains were relatively common in all five sites, indicating rice agriculture had been well developed in the Poyang Lake Basin. During 5000-4000 a BP, the plants utilized were Coix spp., plants from the species Triticeae, Oryza spp., and other species of edible roots and tubers. During 4500-3500 a BP, the ancient people who lived in the region utilized rice (Oryza spp.), millet (Setaria spp.) and some root and tuber crops (Figure 3). Third, species of roots and tubers, accounting for approximately 8%, were found at the five sites, reflecting that these plants may have played a role in social production. Some plants were not identifiable, possibility because of contamination or other various plants uses. Preliminary analysis of carbonized seeds from sites of the Shang and Zhou dynasties showed a crop assemblage of rice and millet (Chen et al., 2015). These results indicate that ancient plant use was diverse in the Poyang Lake Basin.
Figure 3 Proportion of each type of starch grain retrieved from the five Neolithic archaeological sites of the Poyang Lake Basin (Wan et al., 2012a, 2012b)

5 Discussion

5.1 Environmental changes during the Holocene in the Poyang Lake Basin

The available data of the Holocene climate and environmental changes in the study area were few. Therefore, the discussion in this paper is based on previous studies on sediments of Poyang Lake (Ma et al., 2004; Xie and Fan, 2005; Xie et al., 2006), δ18O records of stalagmites collected from the Dongge Cave (Wang et al., 2005) and Shanbao Cave (Shao et al., 2006) in the Yangtze River Basin (Figure 4). These studies can be utilized to reconstruct palaeoenvironmental change of Holocene.
Figure 4 Correlation of prehistoric culture phases in the Poyang Lake Basin and the Holocene climate evolution inferred from δ13C record from Poyang Lake (ZK01), δ18O records of stalagmites from Dongge Cave, percentage of pollen (%) from Jiujiang (ZK08), Jiangxi Province and δ18O records of stalagmites from Shanbao Cave, Hubei Province.
These records indicated that temperature and humidity increased throughout the East Asian monsoon region between 10 and 6 ka BP due to an intensified East Asian monsoon early in the Holocene (Shao et al., 2006). Assembalges of pollen analysis of sediments from core ZK08 in Jiujiang during the period of 8.0-6.0 ka BP were characterized by a high percentage of arboreal pollen, including Liquidambar, Evergreen Quercus, and pollen of ferns, suggesting a warm and humid climate (Xie and Fan, 2005). Subtropical forest was relatively reduced during the period of 6.0-5.0 ka BP, while temperate forests increased with deciduous oak and Castanopsis as species used for construction. An increase of Chenopodiaceae pollen illustrated that a certain amount of drought-resistant plants existed due to climate change to drier conditions (Xie and Fan, 2005). During the period between 5.0-3.6 ka BP, subtropical trees flourished. The main constructive species were Quercus, Castanopsis, deciduous oak, and maple. The δ13C values were less negative, and aquatic plant blooms showed enlargement of the area in the Poyang Lake, corresponding to the formation of Poyang Lake similar to today (Jiang and Piperno, 1999; Ma et al., 2004; Xie and Fan, 2005; Xie et al., 2006; Tan, 1982). Between 3.6 and 2.0 ka BP, the δ18O value of stalagmites increased, suggesting that the amount of summer monsoon precipitation began to decrease (Wang et al., 2005; Shao et al., 2006). Decreases of subtropical forest in large areas and increases of the Chenopodiaceae and Artemisia indicated that the climate became cool and dry (Xie and Fan, 2005; Xie et al., 2006). In conclusion, the Holocene climate during 10.0-2.8 ka BP experienced three stages: a warm-humid stage at 10.0-6.0 ka BP, a warm-dry stage at 6.0-3.6 ka BP, and a cold-dry stage during the Shang and Zhou dynasties.

5.2 Impacts of climate change on temporal-spatial distribution of archaeological sites

The early Neolithic Age was a warm and moist stage, and ancient people relied mainly on hunting and gathering activities. As Figure 2a shows, the early Neolithic sites were distributed in the little intermontane basin to the southeast of Poyang Lake, where natural limestone caves provided preferable habitat. Bones of fish, birds, and animals including the mammals Macaca mulatta, Lepus sp., Nyctereutes procyonoides Gray, and Rusa sp. (Huang and Ji, 1963) at the Xianrendong site, and phytolith materials of rice (Oryza sativa L.) (Zhao, 2000) at the Diaotonghuan site, identified during archaeological discoveries, demonstrated that forest and swamp environments offer rich biological resources during 10.0-8.0 ka BP (Huang and Ji, 1963).
The middle Neolithic Age experienced a milder-wetter climate. Many agriculture, manufacturing, and fishing tools were unearthed at the Shinianshan site, suggesting a transition from hunting-gathering to agriculture (Liu and Li, 1991). The Zhengjia’ao culture, which probably was a sub-type of Xuejiagang culture south of Anhui and mainly located in the hilly areas near the river, demonstrated a pattern of life similar to the Shinianshan culture. During this period, the sites were extensively distributed on river terraces and hilly platforms to the western and northern parts of the Poyang Lake (Figure 2a).
Discovery of more and more farming tools and complex implements during the period of the Zhuweicheng-Fanchengdui culture, verified further development of agricultural production and farming. During this period, more sites were moved to flood plains around the Poyang Lake and into the middle and lower reaches of the Ganjiang River and Xiuhe River, where the number of relatively large scale sites increased (Figure 2a). The Sheshantou cultural sites were mainly distributed in the eastern Poyang Lake area and along the middle and lower Xinjiang River and Raohe River. The sites were mainly distributed around Poyang Lake and were widely distributed in plain areas (Figure 2a). The climate was slightly warm and humid in this period, and the productivity and ability of the people to response to disasters had been improved such that the scope of activities gradually expanded.
Irrigation systems emerged in the Shang and Zhou dynasties, more sites moved to lower flood plains than previously, and Poyang Lake transitioned to the present geographical pattern (Jia, 2016). In addition, rice hulls and drinking vessels indicated that rice cultivation was well-developed and food production was so abundant that there was enough surplus to make alcohol (Liu, 1992a). The flood plains of Poyang Lake and the middle and lower reaches of rivers were the preferred choice as dwelling sites for more peoples, for its large geographical capacity, and for its fertile, silty flood-soil sediments. Expanded population and well developed agricultural technique were likely conducive to exploitation of these flood plains. Moreover, the dry climatic conditions at this time were probably another driving factor, suggesting that under dry conditions, it was difficult for ancient people, living in high landscape to fetch water resource. Consequently, they found it necessary to exploit extensive geographic area for improved survival.

5.3 Climate change, geographical migration of sites, population, and life pressure during 10.0-2.8 ka BP

The early Holocene climate is well suited for wild Oryza species (Zhao and Piperno, 2000). Wild rice might have been domesticated for food by the ancient people of the Xianrendong site (Cao, 1998), showing that these ancient people were the first group to engage in early rice farming. Paddy grain gathering probably originated from wild fields (Zhao, 1998). Unearthed animal bones showed that young, old, and sick individuals occupy a certain proportion of the population, while domesticated animals were very few. Ancient people mainly relied on hunting and gathering (Huang and Ji, 1963). There was no indication that revolutionizing farming took place in Xianrendong site. Factors contributing to this included rich wild resources for food in that basin and too small a population size to constitute high resource consumption. Thus, at that time, ancient people encountered no living stress.
On the contrary, during the subsequent phases in the middle-late Holocene (6.0-2.8 ka BP), the situation changed rapidly and dramatically to a large population size and development of farming implements. Primitive agriculture was combined with fishing and hunting (Table 3). With the change of production modes, a diversity of cultural types developed, along with the expansion of human activities. More farming tools, rice husks and rice traces unearthed from sites of Shanbei culture verified that the regional agrarian revolution had started (Peng, 1982). During the late Neolithic Age, rice (Oryza spp.), Triticeae, Coix spp., millet (Setaria spp.), roots and tubers were found, showing that the ancient diet in the Poyang Lake Basin was highly diverse (Figure 3). Agriculture had become the main mode of livelihood for local residents. The abundance of food enabled people to survive better, and simultaneously to reduce their dependence on natural resources. This is consistent with the evolutionary principle. The quality of production tools, e.g., dagger-axes, sickles, and ploughs, and the number of types of settlements in the Shang and Zhou dynasties, which were greater than in the Neolithic Age (Table 3), indicated that agricultural production had made progress towards technical maturity. The drying climate also played an important role for relocation of residential areas, from river terraces and hilly landscape to floodplains of the Poyang Lake and the middle and lower reaches of the Ganjiang River, Fuhe River, and Xiushui River between the middle Neolithic Age and the Shang and Zhou dynasties era in the Poyang Lake Basin. During the middle-late Holocene, ancient people had to take measures to adapt themselves to new situation and must have done so.

6 Conclusions

(1) Between 10.0 and 6.0 ka BP, the Holocene climate in the Poyang Lake Basin was warm and moist, intensified by the East Asian summer monsoon. Relatively dry climatic conditions have gradually prevailed since 6.0 ka BP.
(2) The few discovered archaeological sites of early Neolithic Age are located in intermoutane basins. A large number of archaeological sites of middle-late Neolithic Age and Shang and Zhou dynasties are extensively distributed on river terraces and hilly landscape in the middle and lower reaches of the Ganjiang River, Xiushui River, Fuhe River, and Xinjiang River. Archaeological sites gradually migrated downward to flood plains in the lower reaches of rivers around Poyang Lake in order to exploit these flood plains. Drying climate in the middle-late Holocene help to bring about this process.
(3) Economic cultivation as the origin of farming might have occurred independently in the Poyang Lake Basin. One appeared at the Xianrendong cultural stage. During the late Neolithic Age, agricultural tools tended to be complex, and a diversity of plant community was under cultivation. Agriculture was established as the foundation of the production mode and human activity was strengthened. The Shang and Zhou dynasties witnessed that the civilization developed to a certain stage, while agriculture became common and fishing thrived. These developments enriched human activities, and ultimately stimulated the evolution of society.

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Cao K P, 1993. Reflect on Fanchengdui Culture.Relics From South, (4): 53-59. (in Chinese)

Cao K P, 1998. Restudy remains of Xianrendong site and renewed sense of rice agriculture origin in China. Southeast Culture, (3): 25-31. (in Chinese)

Chen F H, Dong G H, Zhang D Jet al., 2015a. Agriculture facilitated permanent human occupation of the Tibetan Plateau after 3600 B.P.Science, 248-250.

Chen F H, Xu Q H, Chen J Het al., 2015b. East Asian summer monsoon precipitation variability since the last deglaciation.Scientific Reports, 1-11.The lack of a precisely-dated, unequivocal climate proxy from northern China, where precipitation variability is traditionally considered as an East Asian summer monsoon (EASM) indicator, impedes our understanding of the behaviour and dynamics of the EASM. Here we present a well-dated, pollen-based, ~20-yr-resolution quantitative precipitation reconstruction (derived using a transfer function) from an alpine lake in North China, which provides for the first time a direct record of EASM evolution since 14.765ka (ka65=65thousands of years before present, where the “present” is defined as the year AD 1950). Our record reveals a gradually intensifying monsoon from 14.7–7.065ka, a maximum monsoon (30% higher precipitation than present) from ~7.8–5.365ka, and a rapid decline since ~3.365ka. These insolation-driven EASM trends were punctuated by two millennial-scale weakening events which occurred synchronously to the cold Younger Dryas and at ~9.5–8.565ka, and by two centennial-scale intervals of enhanced (weakened) monsoon during the Medieval Warm Period (Little Ice Age). Our precipitation reconstruction, consistent with temperature changes but quite different from the prevailing view of EASM evolution, points to strong internal feedback processes driving the EASM, and may aid our understanding of future monsoon behaviour under ongoing anthropogenic climate change.


Chen J, 2005. Ecological history view of the rise and decline of Liangzhu culture. Southeast Culture, (5): 33-40. (in Chinese)

Chen X X, Zhou G M, Gong W, 2015. A preliminary analysis on the carbonized seeds and fruits from Niucheng Site (2006-2008), Xingan, Jiangxi Province.Jianghan Archaeology, (3): 100-108. (in Chinese)

Duan Y, 2003. Research on the seven decades of Sanxingdui and Bashu Culture.Forum on Chinese Culture, (3): 11-35. (in Chinese)

Evans D J A, England J H, Farge C Let al., 2014. Quaternary geology of the Duck Hawk Bluffs, southwest Banks Island, Arctic Canada: A re-investigation of a critical terrestrial type locality for glacial and interglacial events bordering the Arctic Ocean.Quaternary Science Reviews, 91: 82-123.

Gao C, Wang X Y, Jin G Jet al., 2009. Spatial distribution features of archaeological sites on the western shore of the Chaohu Lake, China. Geographical Research, 28(4): 979-989. (in Chinese)Archaeological sites are the relics of human activities, which belong to the concept of archaeology. The sites were the places where the ancient human lived, worked and took part in ather activities. As one of the five biggest freshwater lakes in China, the Chaohu Lake is important for local environment and society. There are about 19 Neolithic Age sites and 120 Shang-Zhou Dynasty sites on the western shore of the Chaohu Lake. Based on sites data, topographic data, drainage maps, administrative maps and ArcGIS9.0 Geographic Information System, this paper tries to introduce spatial analysis methods into archaeology of Chaohu Lake Catchment. The spatial analysis methods include: (1) Sites point density is studied by spatial analysis in ArcGIS9.0 and spatial distribution is estimated by spatial interpolation as IDW (Inverse Distance Weighted). (2) In order to access the relationship between sites, distance analysis is used to reveal organizational structure features. (3) 3D analysis was done by DEM and contours to reveal micro-geomorphologic features of sites. (4) The relationship between the sites and river drainage was discovered by buffer analysis. The paper analyzes the spatial distribution pattern and the impact factors of sites from Neolithic to Shang and Zhou dynasties on the western shore of the Chaohu Lake. The results indicate that archaeological sites spread from the west shore of the gradually to the northwest, later to the south, and then they symmetrically spread. Restricted by productive forces and other factors, the ancient people preferred to settle in those places near water, plain, and fertile land, which led to the sites scattered in the direction of line, aggregation and decentralization etc., and presented the disciplines such as river valley-direction, terrace-direction and soil-direction, etc. This paper indicates that the distribution of the sites was influenced earlier by natural elements such as climate, topography, and vegetation; and was more by human factors such as productive forces, economic activities later. Research of site distribution features in the study area is significant for the integration of GIS and archaeology. And the hypothesis from spatial analysis should be proved by field archaeology.


Grahn Y, Mauller P M, Bergamaschi Set al., 2013. Palynology sequence stratigraphy of three Devonian rock units in the Apucarana sub-basin (Parana Basin, south Brazil): Additional data and correlation.Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 198: 27-44.

Guo Y W, Li J H, 1963. Excavation briefing of Xianrendong Site in Wannian, Jiangxi.The Chinese Journal of Archaeology, (1): 1-16. (in Chinese)

Guo Y Y, Mo D W, Mao L Jet al., 2013. Settlement distribution and its relationship with environmental changes from the Neolithic to Shang-Zhou dynasties in northern Shandong, China.Journal of Geographical Sciences, 23(4): 679-694.<p>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 &lt;2&deg;) 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.</p>


Guo Y Y, Mo D W, Mao L Jet al., 2014. Settlement distribution and its relationship with environmental changes from the Paleolithic to Shang-Zhou period in Liyang Plain, China.Quaternary International, 321: 29-36.

Haug G H, Güther D, Peterson L Cet al., 2003. Climate and the collapse of Maya civilization.Science, 299: 1731-1735.In the anoxic Cariaco Basin of the southern Caribbean, the bulk titanium content of undisturbed sediment reflects variations in riverine input and the hydrological cycle over northern tropical South America. A seasonally resolved record of titanium shows that the collapse of Maya civilization in the Terminal Classic Period occurred during an extended regional dry period, punctuated by more intense multiyear droughts centered at approximately 810, 860, and 910 A.D. These new data suggest that a century-scale decline in rainfall put a general strain on resources in the region, which was then exacerbated by abrupt drought events, contributing to the social stresses that led to the Maya demise.


Huang W B, Ji H X, 1963. Note on Holocene Xianrendong cave deposit of Wannian, China.Vertebrata Palasiatica, 7(3): 263-271. (in Chinese)

Innes J B, Zong Y Q, Wang Z Het al., 2014. Climatic and palaeoecological changes during the mid- to Late Holocene transition in eastern China: High-resolution pollen and non-pollen palynomorph analysis at Pingwang, Yangtze coastal lowlands.Quaternary Science Reviews, 99: 164-175.

Institute of Archaeology, CASS, 1974. Radiocarbon dating report (3).Archaeology, (5): 333-338. (in Chinese)

Institute of Archaeology, CASS, 1977. Radiocarbon dating report (4).Archaeology, (3): 200-204. (in Chinese)

Institute of Archaeology, CASS, 1979. Radiocarbon dating report (6).Archaeology, (1): 89-96. (in Chinese)

Institute of Archaeology, CASS, 1991. Radiocarbon dating report (18).Archaeology, (7): 657-663. (in Chinese)

Jia Y L, 2016. Environment Evolution of Poyang Lake, in Ecological Security Issues and Monitoring. Beijing: Science Press, 1-18. (in Chinese)

Jiang Q H, Piperno D R, 1999. Environmental and archaeological implications of a Late Quaternary palynological Sequence, Poyang Lake, Southern China.Quaternary Research, 52: 250-258.Paleoecological data from Poyang Lake, southern China, indicate that significant natural and human-induced vegetational changes have occurred during the Late Quaternary in the Middle Yangtze River valley, the likely location of rice ( Oryza sativa L.) domestication. During the late Pleistocene (from ca. 12,830 to ca. 10,500 yr B.P.), the climate was cooler and drier than today's. The subtropical, mixed deciduous vergreen broad-leaved forest which constitutes the modern, potential vegetation was reduced and herbaceous vegetative cover expanded. A hiatus in sedimentation occurred in Poyang Lake, beginning sometime after ca. 10,500 yr B.P. and lasting until the middle Holocene (ca. 4000 yr B.P.). At ca. 4000 yr B.P., the regional vegetation was a diverse, broad-leaved forest dominated by many of the same arboreal elements (e.g., Quercus, Castanopsis, Liquidambar ) that grow in the area today. A significant reduction of arboreal pollen and an increase of herbaceous pollen at ca. 2000 yr B.P. probably reflect human influence on the vegetation and the expansion of intensive rice agriculture into the dryland forests near the river valleys.


Jiangxi Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology (JPICRA), Xiamen University, Xinyu Municipal Museum, 1991. The Shinianshan site at Xinyu city, Jiangxi province.Acta Archaeologia Sinica, (3): 285-323. (in Chinese)

Jiangxi Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology (JPICRA), Xiamen University, Guangfeng county Cultural Relic Administration, 1997. The third excavation of Sheshantou site in Guangfeng, Jiangxi Province.Relics From South, (1): 1-22. (in Chinese)

Jiangxi Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology (JPICRA), Xiamen University, Zhangshu Museum, 1995. The eighth excavation briefing of Wucheng Site in Zhangshu, Jiangxi.Relics From South, (1): 5-23. (in Chinese)

Jiangxi Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology (JPICRA), Jingan Museum, 1989. The briefing on tomb in Zhengjia’ao site.Southeast Culture, (Suppl.1): 1-13. (in Chinese)

Kuper R, Kropelin S, 2006. Climate-controlled Holocene occupation in the Sahara: Motor of Africa’s evolution.Science, 313(5788): 803-807.

Li F, Wu L, Zhu Cet al., 2013. Spatial-temporal distribution and geographic context of Neolithic cultural sites in the Hanjiang River Basin, Southern Shaanxi, China.Journal of Archaeological Science, 40(8): 3141-3152.Understanding how to live successfully within our environment is among the most pressing challenges facing contemporary society. This paper probes the problem based on comparative analysis and discusses the relationship between the spatial-temporal distribution of the Neolithic cultural sites and the geographic context in the Hanjiang River Basin in the south of Shaanxi Province, China. Archaeological studies have identified 175 Neolithic cultural sites in the study area, with a sequence of Laoguantai (C-14 age 8-7 ka BP), Yangshao (C-14 age 7-5 ka BP) and the late period of the Neolithic Age (C-14 age 5-4 ka BP). The total number of archaeological sites, the distribution area and the density all showed an early ascending and later descending trend, but the proportion of the number of archaeological sites in the study area to the corresponding value of the entire Shaanxi Province declined sharply. Spatially, these sites were concentrated on the terraces of the Hanjiang River and its main tributaries with an altitude of 400-800 m. Multiple data were integrated to clarify the critical effects of tectonic and geomorphologic conditions on the distribution of the Neolithic sites. Further comparisons revealed the correlation of Holocene climate change and environmental evolution with the Neolithic cultural succession in the study area that ameliorated conditions to generally promote the development of the primitive culture while degeneration coincided with the culture's transition or interruption. The discussion on the origin of the primitive culture and the temporal-spatial distribution corresponding to the regional culture differentiation sheds light on the complex and dynamic human-nature interaction system during the Neolithic Age, thus emphasising the wider field-based investigation and high-resolution reconstruction works of the palaeoclimate and palaeoenvironment in the future. (c) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Li J H, Liu L, Liu S Z, 1986. Analysis of Zhuweicheng Culture: The late of Neolithic Culture in Jiangxi Province.Jiangxi Historical Relics, (1): 52-62. (in Chinese)

Li J H, Liu S Z, Huang S G, 1986a. Neolithic culture in Jiangxi Province.Jiangxi Historical Relics, (S1): 1-16. (in Chinese)

Li J H, Liu S Z, Huang S G, 1986b. Review of Bronze Culture in Jiangxi Province.Jiangxi Historical Relics, (S1): 31-53. (in Chinese)

Li J T, Wu M J, Zhong L Qet al., 1982. The second excavation briefing of Zhuweicheng Site in Zhangshu, Jiangxi.Archaeology, (2): 130-138. (in Chinese)

Li K F, Zhu C, Jiang F Qet al., 2014. Archaeological sites distribution and its physical environmental settings between ca 260-2.2 ka BP in Guizhou, Southwest China.Journal of Geographical Sciences, 24(3):;p>This study presents an analysis of the spatial-temporal distribution of 230 archaeological sites in Guizhou Province, Southwest China for three selected time periods from the Paleolithic Age to the Shang-Zhou Dynasties. The relationship between archaeological sites distribution and environmental changes is also discussed based on paleo-environmental proxies of &delta;<sup>18</sup>O and &delta;<sup>13</sup>C recorded in stalagmites from Southwest China. The results show that: in the Paleolithic Age (260-10 ka BP), archaeological sites were concentrated in the central, northwestern and southwestern parts of Guizhou, where the high-altitudinal karst landforms with many natural caves suitable for human habitation are developed. In the Neolithic Age (10-3.6 ka BP), most of human settlements were concentrated in the central, northwestern and southwestern parts, while, a fewer sites were found on river terraces in the southern and eastern parts, and the intermontane basins in the central and western Guizhou. During the Shang-Zhou Dynasties (3.6-2.2 ka BP), the sites were mainly distributed in the intermontane basins and on river terraces, which were suitable for primitive aerial farming. The analysis of paleo-environmental proxies of &delta;<sup>18</sup>O and &delta;<sup>13</sup>C since 260 ka BP suggested that climate fluctuations had little impact on human settlements in this study area. The distinct physical environment, especially the spatial patterns of karst landforms and arable land played an important role in the archaeological sites distribution of Guizhou.</p>


Li K Y, 1982. Characteristic of Neolithic culture in Jiangxi province.Jiangxi Historical Relics, (1): 76-85. (in Chinese)

Li Y S, Yu J D, 1976. Excavation briefing of Zhuweicheng site in Zhangshu, Jiangxi.Archaeology, (6): 383-391. (in Chinese)

Li Z X, Zhu C, Wu G Xet al., 2013. Spatial and temporal distribution of prehistoric human sites and its driving factors in Henan Province.Acta Geographica Sinica, 68(11): 1527-1737. (in Chinese)Based on the ArcGis10.0 platform, this article analyzed the geographic indexes of prehistoric human sites in the Yangshao Cultural Period (approx. 6.9-6.0 ka BP) and in the Longshan Cultural Period (approx. 4.6-4.0 ka BP) in Henan, i.e. spatial distribution, river-orientation, spatial agglomeration etc. Results showed that 18.8% of the sites in Yangshao period are distributed within 1 km river-buffer area, while there were 16.5% in Longshan period, indicating that human activity in Longshan period became weaker at river-orientation. In contrast to the Yangshao period, spatial agglomeration indexes of the western part of Henan, Nanyang Basin and Yinghe-and-Huaihe river basin respectively increased by 0.006, 0.016 and 0.021, which suggested that human activity in Longshan-period was restricted by natural environment. At 4.0 ka BP, Henan was subjected to the cooling events, accompanied by natural disasters such as drought, flood and low temperature, which accelerated the spread of human activities. At that time, the exotic cultures such as Shijiahe and Dawenkou expanded into Henan and complicated the spatial-temporal patterns of human activities.


Liu Q R, 1992a. Agricultural of Jiangxi in Shang and Zhou dynasties.Agricultural Archaeology, (3): 100-103. (in Chinese)

Liu S Z, 1992b. Cultural analysis of Shinianshan site.Relics From South, (3): 52-59. (in Chinese)

Liu S Z, 1993. Discuss of Neolithic culture in Jiangxi Province. Archaeology, (12): 1099-1109. (in Chinese)

Liu S Z, 2000. Retrospect and prospects of Jiangxi Province archaeology.Archaeology, (12): 24-34. (in Chinese)

Liu Z Y, Wen X Y, Brady E Cet al., 2014. Chinese cave records and the East Asian summer monsoon. Quaternary Science Reviews, 83: 115-128.

Long Q, Bai J, Ju Y, 1992. Discover and Research from Shang Dynasty culture in the Jiangxi Province.Southeast Culture, (Suppl.1): 82-92. (in Chinese)

Ma Z X, Huang J H, Wei Yet al., 2004. Organic carbon isotope records of the Poyang Lake sediments and their implications for the paleoclimate during the last 8 ka.Geochimica, 33(3): 279-285. (in Chinese)The paleoclimate during the last 8 ka is presented through the high resolution organic carbon isotope records of the Poyang Lake sediments. The δ 13C values range from - 22.42‰ to - 32.42‰ , indicating C3 plant dominated source. Therefore, the variations of the δ 13C values of these sediments may largely arouse from the response of the C3 plants to the climate changes, other than the substitution of the C4 plants. Four warm and wet periods (7 900~ 3 660 a B.P., 3 440~ 2 990 a B.P., 2 940~ 2 170 a B.P. and 1 820~ 650 a B.P.), and four cold (cool) and dry periods (3 660~ 3 440 a B.P., 2 990~ 2 940 a B.P., 2 170~ 1 820 a B.P. and 650~ 200 a B.P.) are identified from the carbon isotope records, where declined δ 13C values indicate warm and wet climate, and elevated δ 13C values indicate cold/dry climate. Such paleoclimate interpretation agrees well with other records of these sediments, the palynology and diatom data for instance, and the documentary records of this area.


Mayle F E, Iriarte J, 2014. Integrated palaeoecology and archaeology: A powerful approach for understanding pre-Columbian Amazonia.Journal of Archaeological Science, 51: 54-64.The old paradigm that Amazonia's tropical ecosystems prevented cultural development beyond small-scale shifting agricultural economies, that had little environmental impact, no longer holds true for much of Amazonia. A diversity of archaeological evidence, including terra preta soils, raised fields, causeways, large habitation mounds, geometric earthworks, and megalithic monuments, all point to considerable cultural complexity and environmental impacts. However, uncertainty remains over the chronology of these cultures, their diet and economy, and the scale of environmental impact and land use associated with them. Here, we argue that a cross-disciplinary approach, closely coupling palaeoecology and archaeology, can potentially resolve these uncertainties. We show how, with careful site selection (pairing small and large lakes, close proximity to archaeological sites, transects of soil pits) and choice of techniques (e.g., pollen, phytoliths, starch grains, charcoal, stable isotopes), these two disciplines can be successfully integrated to provide a powerful tool for investigating the relationship between pre-Columbian cultures and their environment.


Oinonen M, Pesonen P, Alenius Tet al., 2014. Event reconstruction through Bayesian chronology: Massive mid-Holocene lake-burst triggered large-scale ecological and cultural change.The Holocene, 24(11): 1419-1427.Alces alcesPicea abies


Oonk S, Spijker J, 2015. A supervised machine-learning approach towards geochemical predictive modelling in archaeology.Journal of Archaeological Science, 59: 80-88.Present proof-of-concept study shows that modelling of multiple-source geochemical soil data using machine-learning algorithms can be successfully accomplished and that model predictions nicely complement current interpretation and/or established archeological predictive modelling of areas of archaeological interest. Limitations of our approach were found to reside in lithological differences between sites used for model training and prediction sites.


Peng S F, 1981a. Neolithic culture in Jiangxi Province. Journal of Nanchang University (Social Science), (4): 95-108. (in Chinese)

Peng S F, 1981b. Questions about Xianrendong Culture from the early Neolithic in Southern of China.Jiangxi Historical Relics, (2): 9-18. (in Chinese)

Peng S F, 1982. Research of Shanbei Culture, Jiangxi.Archaeology, (1): 40-47. (in Chinese)

Peng S F, Li J H, 1975. Excavation briefing of Wucheng site in Zhangshu, Jiangxi.Cultural Relics, (7): 51-71. (in Chinese)

Peng S F, Liu L, Zhan K X, 1991. Excavation briefing of Dayangzhou site in Xingan, Jiangxi.Cultural Relics, (10): 1-26. (in Chinese)

Peng S F, Zhou G M, 2004. Xianrendong site and Diaotonghuan site of Jiangxi: Case study research from Paleolithic to Neolithic.Agricultural Archaeology, (3): 29-39. (in Chinese)

Peng Y G, 2004. A study of Wucheng Culture [D]. Chengdu: Sichuan University. (in Chinese)

Qiu S R, Qiu X C, 2006. Jiangxi general situation and localism and dialect culture.Jiangxi Linguistics Society Collected Papers, 4-9. (in Chinese)

Shao X H, Wang Y J, Cheng Het al., 2006. Long-term trend and abrupt events of the Holocene Asian monsoon interred from a stalagmite δ18O record from Shennongjia in Central China.Chinese Science Bulletin, 51(2): 221-228.

Sun L, Gao M H, 2006. The geographical landscape of Majiabang culture.Huaxia Archaeology, (3): 40-45. (in Chinese)

Tan Q X, Zhang X G, 1982. Course of history in Poyang Lake. Fudan Journal (Social Sciences Edition), (2): 42-51. (in Chinese)

Tang S L, 1996. Discussion on the Zhuweicheng Culture.Relics From South, (2): 56-66. (in Chinese)

Wan Z W, Yang X Y, Ge Q Set al., 2012a. Plant resource utilization at Sheshantou Site in Jiangxi Province based on starch grain analysis.Progress in Geography, 31(5): 639-645. (in Chinese)Sheshantou is an important Neolithic archaeological site in Jiangxi province, but hardly any environmental archaeology and paleoethnobotany research had been done about it. Starch grain analysis, as a new micro-remain method, has been chosen in this research. And some potteries-two pottery bowls and a pottery jar,excavated from the She shantou site were examined in this study. The results show that the food residues attachedto the inner wall of the pottery include lots of starch grains from different plants such as Oryza spp., Setariaspp., an amount of root and tuber, and a few starch grains cannot be identified at this time which maybe caused by the appearance of a number of transient starch grains produced within the process of photosynthesis.Starch grains from Oryza spp. 7 grains represent 21% of the total, Starch grains from Setaria spp. 9 grains represent 26%, and only 2 grains from roots and tubers. The results probably indicate that, 4500~3500 a BP, the ancient people lived in the region of Sheshantou had made use of rice and millet, and also taken some root and tuberas their food resource. This research supplied some evidences for the study on paleoethnobotany and environmental archaeology in Southern China, and shed some new light on the research of ancient people diet. Andthese results also demonstrate that ancient starch grains can be reserved in archaeological sites of Southern China,which will be a useful complement to other research methods in the near future.


Wan Z W, Yang X Y, Ge Q Set al., 2012b. Starch grain analysis reveals Late Neolithic plant utilization in the middle reaches of the Ganjiang River. Scientia Sinica (Terrae), 42(10): 1582-1589. (in Chinese)

Wang Y J, Cheng H, Edwards R Let al., 2005. The Holocene Asian Monsoon: Links to solar changes and North Atlantic climate. Science, 308: 854-857.

Wu C L, Zhang Y, Li Qet al., 2011. An environmental database and temporal and spatial distribution of Chinese paleoanthropological sites. Chinese Science Bulletin, 56(26): 2229-2231. (in Chinese)A comprehensive database of paleoenvironmental settings for paleoanthropological sites provides a useful tool to explore the link between human evolution and paleoenvironmental changes. A preliminary GIS-based environmental database for paleoanthropological sites in China (EDPC) was constructed based on data collected from published literature. The database currently contains 1114 paleoanthropological sites. It will be available for online access following the establishment of relevant rules, and after improvement and further development through regular and sustained updates by internal and external users. Preliminary analyses using the GIS system yielded new evidence regarding human-environmental relationships.


Wu L, Li F, Zhu Cet al., 2012. Holocene environmental change and archaeology, Yangtze River Valley, China: Review and prospects. Geoscience Frontiers, 3(6): 875-892.Holocene environmental change and environmental archaeology are important components of an international project studying the human-earth interaction system.This paper reviews the progress of Holocene environmental change and environmental archaeology research in the Yangtze River Valley over the last three decades,that includes the evolution of large freshwater lakes.Holocene transgression and sea-level changes,Holocene climate change and East Asian monsoon variation,relationship between the rise and fall of primitive civilizations and environmental changes,cultural interruptions and palaeoflood events,as well as relationship between the origin of agriculture and climate change.These research components are underpinned by the dating of lacustrine sediments,stalagmites and peat to establish a chronology of regional environmental and cultural evolution.Interdisciplinary and other environment proxy indicators need to be used in comparative studies of archaeological site formation and natural sedimentary environment in the upper,middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River Valley.Modern technology such as remote sensing,molecular bioarchaeology,and virtual reality,should be integrated with currently used dating,geochemical,sedimentological.and palaeobotanical methods of analysis in environmental archaeology macro- and micro-studies,so as to provide a greater comprehensive insight into Holocene environmental and cultural interaction and change in the Yangtze River Valley area.


Wu L, Zhu C, Zheng C Get al., 2014a. Holocene environmental change and its impacts on human settlement in the Shanghai area, East China.Catena, 114: 78-89.Archaeological excavations and environmental archaeological studies over many years in the Shanghai Area have provided a wealth of information for Holocene environmental changes, growth and decline of human settlements and man and interaction. Distribution of archaeological sites between 7000 and 3000 cal. yr BP indicates a regression process and a southward advance of the coastline in the study area. Temporal and spatial analyses of 14 C dates for archaeological sites, shell ridges, buried trees, and peat suggest that Holocene environmental changes may well have been a major cause of the rise and fall of human settlements and their civilization. A relative sea-level curve of the Shanghai Area was derived from dated shell ridges and peat, and correlates well with the reconstructed sea-level curves of the Yangtze Delta and East China. The development of human settlements was interrupted at least four times in the Shanghai Area, matching four periods of high sea-level, peat accumulation, and increase in shell ridges, after which Neolithic communities moved onto the plain and reclaimed their lowlands for rice cultivation. The Chenier Ridges played an important role in sheltering the Neolithic settlers. The collapse of Liangzhu Culture about 4000 cal. yr BP was followed by the less-developed Maqiao Culture. These studies suggest that extreme environmental and hydrological conditions such as terrestrial inundation caused by sea-level rise and heavy rainfall, contributed to the cessation of paddy exploitation and to the social stress that led to the Liangzhu Culture demise.


Wu L, Zhu C, Zheng C Get al., 2014b. Impact of Holocene climate change on the prehistoric cultures of Zhejiang region, East China.Journal of Geographical Sciences, 24(4): 669-688.<p>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.</p>


Wu R, Deng Z Q, Zhang Z Get al., 2005. Scientific and technological research of the unearthed pottery from the Neolithic Xianrendong site in Wannian County, Jiangxi Province.Archaeology, (7): 62-69. (in Chinese)

Xiao Y T, 1991. Exploration of Neolithic culture in Jiangxi Province. Relics From Jiangxi, (2): 44-50. (in Chinese)

Xie S C, Evershed R P, Huang X Yet al., 2013. Concordant monsoon-driven postglacial hydrological changes in peat and stalagmite records and their impacts on prehistoric cultures in central China.Geology, 41(8): 827-830.Asian monsoon records are widely documented, but specific proxies of monsoonal rainfall are limited. We present here two new independent proxy records from peatland and stalagmite archives that indicate a high degree of concordance between monsoon-driven hydrological changes occurring since the last deglaciation in a broad region of central China. The wet periods elevated the water table in the Dajiuhu peatland, as recorded by reduced mass accumulation rates of hopanoids, biomarkers for aerobic microbes, confirmed by molecular phylogenic analyses. The hopanoid-based reconstruction is supported by the first report of the environmental magnetism parameter ARM/SIRM (anhysteretic remanent magnetization / saturation isothermal remanent magnetization; ratio of fine magnetic particles to total ferrimagnetic particles) in a stalagmite from Heshang Cave in central China. Heavy rainfall resulted in the enhanced transport of coarse particles to the cave and thus low ARM/SIRM values in the stalagmite. The hydrological conditions inferred from the two records reveal three relatively long wet periods in central China: 13-11.5 k.y. ago, 9.5-7.0 k.y. ago, and 3.0-1.5 k.y. ago. Archaeological evidence for the hydrological impacts on regional populations comes from the observation that temporal shifts among six distinctive cultures of the Neolithic Period to the Iron Age in central China occurred during wet periods or flood episodes. Spatiotemporal distributions of >1600 prehistoric settlement sites correlate with the proxy-inferred fluctuating hydrological conditions, with enhanced flooding risk forcing major relocations of human settlements away from riparian zones.


Xie Z D, Fan S X, 2005. Sporopollen record of hole ZK08 in Jiujiang, Jiangxi, and paleoenvironmental information reflected by it.Geological Bulletin of China, 24(2): 170-175. (in Chinese)On the basis of the sporopollen record in hole ZK08 in Yong'an, Jiujiang, Jiangxi, seven sporopollen zones and ten subzones are distinguished, and the paleoenvironmental evolution since ~12700 aBP in the sporopollen source area is discussed. During ~12700 to 10200 aBP the area experienced the cold stage and warm stage, when the forest vegetation was the cool temperate mixed needle leaf and broadleaf veld, subtropical evergreen broadleaf forest and temperate deciduous veld. During ~10200 to 9400 aBP the area was marked by a sporopollen-deficient zone. Later during ~9400 to 8600 aBP the temperatures rose and the area was dominated by temperate arbores. The period of ~8600 to 3300 aBP was the "hypsithermal", when there were two cooler epochs and the vegetation was dominated by subtropical arbores. At ~3300 aBP the climate entered the neo-ice age, when the vegetation was dominated by temperate arbores in the cooling stage at ~3300 to 2100 aBP. The period of ~2100 to 380 aBP was a cold epoch, during which the climate was dry-cold before ~890 aBP and wet-cold later and the vegetation was characterized by mountainous, cool temperate, mixed needle leaf and broadleaf forest. Since ~380 aBP the climate was affected by human activities and the climatic features of the Little Ice Age recorded by sporopollen are not pronounced, but since ~150 aBP the temperatures have risen remarkably.


Xie Z D, Feng S H, Huang W Het al., 2006. Sporopollen record of drilling hole ZK01 and its paleoenvironmental information in Poyang Lake area Jiangxi.Resources Survey & Environment, 27(1): 60-69. (in Chinese)Through the study the sporopollen record of drilling hole ZK01 in Poyang Lake during 7300 to 50a BP,nine sporopollen zones are divided according to main types of genera and species and diverse characteristic of sporopollen contents in rock core.The paleovegetation in Poyang Lake river basins and the transitional feature of water area as well as cold and warm variation of paleoclimate in Poyang Lake region are recovered by sporopollen record.According to variation characteristics of the percentage content metabolic earmark of subtropical arboreal dust with conifer floral dust in hilly country,the cold and warm variations of climate of Poyang Lake river basins have been discussed in detail since~2760a BP.

Xu C Q, 1996. The study of divide into different period in Shinianshan site.Relics From South, (2): 49-55. (in Chinese)

Xu Q H, Li M Y, Zhang S Ret al., 2015. Modern pollen processes of China: Progress and problems. Scientia Sinica (Terrae), 45: 1661-1682. (in Chinese)

Xu Z F, 1987. Wucheng site and Shang Culture in Jiangxi Province.Jianghan Archaeology, (3): 47-50. (in Chinese)

Zhang J R, Jia Y L, Lai Z Pet al., 2011. Holocene evolution of Huangqihai Lake in semi-arid northern China based on sedimentology and luminescence dating.The Holocene, 21(8): 1261-1268.The pattern of Holocene palaeoclimatic change in arid-semiarid northern China is debated. The terminal Huangqihai Lake is located at the northern margin of the modern East Asian summer monsoon and sensitive to climate change. We present here a sedimentary section from Huangqihai lake basin which comprises lacustrine and fluvial deposits and is about 809 9 m above the present lake level. Quartz optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating was employed to construct the chronology of the section. Based on the OSL chronology and the sedimentological and granulometric analysis, we conclude that (1) the Huangqihai Lake experienced a humid climate during the early part of the Holocene (from c. 10.2 00± 1.0 to 6.7 00± 0.7 ka) with a persistent and stable high lake level; (2) the lake level began to decline indicating aridification between 8.7 00± 0.8 ka and 6.7 00± 0.7 ka, and the climate was drier and variable after 6.7 00± 0.7 ka compared with that of before; (3) from 2.2 00± 0.2 to 0.93 00± 0.07 ka the climatic conditions were highly variable and continuously deteriorating, and the lake was turned into a playa for most of the time. In summary, the climate showed a general drying trend from the early Holocene to the late Holocene.


Zhang P, Miao Y F, Zhang Z Yet al., 2013. Late Cenozoic sporopollen records in the Yangtze River Delta, East China and implications for East Asian summer monsoon evolution. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology,Palaeoecology, 388: 153-165.

Zhao D S, 2009. On the era, development stages and the related issues of Wannian Culture.Southeast Culture, (2): 36-47. (in Chinese)Wannian Culture distributes in the northeast and east of Jiangxi Province, its emergence and development based on the local prehistoric culture. Its age is the same to the Wucheng Culture which located in the west and north of Jiangxi Province, but their culture appearance is absolutely different. Wucheng Culture is in closely contact with the Shang Culture,but Wannian Culture and the cultures which distribute in the north of Fujian Province; the south of the Zhejiang Province and the south of the Jiangsu Province have same characteristics and independent of the Shang Culture. Due to the restrictions on the excavation,the knowledge about Wannian Culture is still inadequate,especially for its era and development stages which are great significant to understand the surrounding culture and culture interaction. So, on the basis of the new excavations and research in the past and in recent years, we attempt to analyze the era and stages of Wannian Culture.

Zhao Z J, 1998. The middle Yangtze region in China is one place where rice was domesticated: Phytolith evidence from the Diaotonghuan cave, northern Jiangxi.Antiquity, 72(278): 885-897.

Zhao Z J, 2000. Research phytolith of oryza in Diaotonghuan site.Agricultural Archaeology, (3): 68-69. (in Chinese)

Zhao Z J, Piperno D R, 2000. Late Pleistocene/Holocene environments in the middle Yangtze River Valley, China and rice (Oryze sativa L.) domestication: The phytolith evidence.Geoarchaeology, 15(2): 203-222.

Zheng C G, Zhu C, Zhong Y Set al., 2008. Relationship between the temporal-spatial distribution of archaeological sites and natural environment from the Paleolithic Age to the Tang and Song dynasties in the Three Gorges Reservoir of Chongqing area. Chinese Science Bulletin, 53(S1): 107-128.

Zhong L Q, 1996. The two problems of Xianrendong culture in Jiangxi Province. In: Wu M J, Wu C M (eds.), the Southeast Archaeological Research (section 1). Xiamen: Xiamen University Press, 38-42. (in Chinese)

Zhong L Q, 2007. Comparative study of the late Neolithic cultures in Minjing River valley and the Ganjing-Poyanghu region.Archaeology, (9): 57-66. (in Chinese)

Zhong Q H, Peng S F, 2008. General History of Jiangxi Province, Pre-Qin volume. Nanchang: Jiangxi People’s Publishing House, 40-111. (in Chinese)

Zhou G M, Zeng Q, Liu L, 1993. The seventh excavation briefing of Wucheng Site in Zhangshu, Jiangxi.Cultural Relics, (7): 1-9. (in Chinese)

Zhu C, Wu L, Li Let al., 2014. Research progress on Holocene environmental archaeology in the Yangtze River Valley, China.Acta Geographica Sinica, 69(9): 1268-1283. (in Chinese)The Yangtze River Valley is an important economic zone in China with a long history of human civilization. However, natural disasters, such as floods and droughts, also frequently occur in this area. The study of Holocene environmental archaeology has important scientific significance for clarifying the interactive effects between environmental evolution and human activities during 10.0- 3.0 ka BP with no written records. In recent years, Holocene environmental archaeology was mainly based on the event stratigraphy of palaeoflood and sea-level change in the Yangtze River Valley. From the aspects of temporalspatial distribution of archaeological sites, archaeological stratigraphy of typical sites, and regional environmental evolution archived from typical natural sedimentary strata, there have been significant progresses of Holocene environmental archaeology in the upper, middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, which indicate deeper and wider development of this research field. Also, the development of international research on environmental archaeology is deepening continuously, such as the new progress on annual recorders of the past in PAGES Magazine. New technologies, such as RS, GIS and DNA analysis, are also applied in the field of environmental archaeology. China has a long history, therefore many archaeological sites and well preserved natural sedimentary records are of great value in environmental archaeology research. In the future, we should keep pace with the international frontier, and take full advantage of above richly endowed conditions, which will further promote the progress on the Holocene environmental archaeology of the Yangtze River Valley.


Zhu C, Zheng C G, Ma C Met al., 2005. Identifying paleoflood deposits archived in Zhongba Site, the Three Gorges Reservoir region of the Yangtze River, China.Chinese Science Bulletin, 50(21): 2493-2504.Based on the principle that the present is the key to the past , detailed analyses, such as AMS 14C dating, grain size, component and morphology of heavy minerals, micro-morphology of zircon, Rb/Sr, magnetic susceptibility and total organic carbon (TOC), were conducted to identify paleoflood sediments archived in Zhongba Site. The results indicate that the plaeoflood sediments bear great similarities with modern flood sediments in the following aspects: (1) probability cumulative curves mainly show a pattern of 3-4 segments; (2) grain-size distribution of suspended matter ranges between 3 and 10Ф; (3) the sediments are well-sorted, most of which are suspended matter (>50%); (4) the same species, quantity and morphology of heavy minerals; (5) scanning electronic microscope images show that shapes of zircon are mainly oval and nearly spheral, rounded due to long-distance transport; (6) higher Rb/Sr values (0.55-0.66)than those of sediments from cultural layers (0.03-0.26); (7) magnetic susceptibility values (133.73-433.05 10-6m3/kg) are lower than those of sediments from cultural layers (959.25-2442.44 10-6 m3/kg); (8) TOC (0.14%-0.33%) are lower than those of sediments from cultural layers (1.13%-2.95%). Our results demonstrate that, except for the 1981 flood, there are at least six paleoflood events that occurred during the Qing Dynasty, the middle of Song Dynasty, the early Warring States (400BC-350BC), the West Zhou Dynasty (920BC-900BC), the Xia Dynasty (2070BC-1600BC), and the late Neolithic Age (3000BC-2300BC), respectively .


Zhu C, Zhong Y S, Zheng C Get al., 2007. Relationship of archaeological sites distribution and environment from Paleolithic Age to the Warring States Time in Hubei Province.Acta Geographica Sinica, 62(3): 227-242. (in Chinese)<p>1362 archaeological sites from the Paleolithic age to the Warring States time in Hubei Province increase gradually from west to east and from high to low. The number of Paleolithic sites with altitudes of 50-500 m account for 78% of the total, while 71%-95% of the sites from the Neolithic age to the Warring States time are distributed at the areas of 0-200 m. The temporal-spatial distribution of archeological sites in this area is mainly affected by two factors. For one thing, the human beings of every age need to choose the first on the second terrace as living sites which are near to the water source and are easy to withstand flood. Additionally, since downcutting of rivers can form new river valley and lateral erosion and accumulation of river in stable time of tectonic movement can result in gathering of many new terraces. So, the human beings migrated to adapt to the change of terrace location, which led to the number of sites increasing gradually in the lower areas of the central and eastern parts of this province. For other things, the temporal-spatial distribution of archeological sites in this area is affected by the climate condition. The Paleolithic sites are distributed mostly in the Hanjiang River Basin in northeastern Shiyan, southeast of Jingzhou and east of Jinmen, which is because rivers were distributed in higher areas in this period. During Chengbeixi cultural period, the sites are rare in the quondam Paleolithic sites distribution area, but manifold obviously along the Yangtze River near the southwest Yichang contrarily. The pollen record of Dajiuhu Lake indicates that only 23 Chengbeixi cultural sites may be related to more precipitation and flood during the Holocene wet and hot period. Daxi Culture, Qujialing Culture and Shijiahe Culture are corresponding to middle and top of the Dajiuhu pollen Zone IV, during which the climate is in order as a whole and is propitious to agricultural development. In the Qujialing Culture period, 32 of the former 34 Daxi Cultural sites disappeared, while 90 sites increase abruptly in the higher highlands in the north of Xiangfan-Jinmen-Xiaogan, which may respect with enlarging of water areas. Chu Culture period is corresponding to Dajiuhu pollen Zone V, which is warm and dry Holocene phase, but it seems that the climate condition is propitious to agricultural cultivation and the number of archeological sites increases heavily to 593. In addition, there are the least archaeological sites in the lake areas of the southeast Hubei Province because of low-lying topography with altitudes of 1-50 m and severest flood.</p>

Zhu G Y, Zhu C, Ling S Jet al., 2005a. Spatial-temporal distribution of Neolithic and Xia-Shang-Zhou dynasties sites and relationship between human and environment in Anhui Province.Scientia Geographica Sinica, 25(3): 346-352. (in Chinese)