Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2017



In an accompanying paper (Journal of Anthropological Research 73(2):149–80, 2017), the authors assess current archaeological and paleobiological evidence for the early Neolithic of China. Emerging trends in archaeological data indicate that early agriculture developed variably: hunting remained important on the Loess Plateau, and aquatic-based foraging and protodomestication augmented cereal agriculture in South China. In North China and the Yangtze Basin, semisedentism and seasonal foraging persisted alongside early Neolithic culture traits such as organized villages, large storage structures, ceramic vessels, and polished stone tool assemblages. In this paper, we seek to explain incipient agriculture as a predictable, system-level cultural response of prehistoric foragers through an evolutionary assessment of archaeological evidence for the preceding Paleolithic to Neolithic transition (PNT). We synthesize a broad range of diagnostic artifacts, settlement, site structure, and biological remains to develop a working hypothesis that agriculture was differentially developed or adopted according to “initial conditions” of habitat, resource structure, and cultural organization. The PNT of China is characterized by multiple, divergent evolutionary pathways: between the eastern and western parts of North China, and between and the Yangtze Valley and the Lingnan region farther south.

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This document was originally published in the Journal of Anthropological Research by the University of Chicago Press. Copyright restrictions may apply. doi: 10.1086/692660

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