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Archaeological evidence from the Early Taiwan Neolithic facilitates the development and assessment of predictive statements about habitat-related variance in the initial adoption of agriculture. This paper summarises archaeological research about Taiwan’s terminal Palaeolithic and early Neolithic periods, and derives working expectations from human behavioural ecology models of diet breadth, opportunity cost, and future discounting, as well as ethno-archaeological research. Expectations are evaluated using Lewis Binford’s hunter-gatherer database. Results allow for the prediction that selective forces during the Neolithic transition of Taiwan favoured mixed economies that varied according to the properties of the local habitat, the social and subsistence organisation of hunter- gatherer groups, and the degree and timing of exposure to immigrating farmers: 1. Coastal plains of the west and the lacustrine basins of the north were ideal zones for initial colonisation by Neolithic Southeastern Chinese farmers. Land pressure and resource competition from immigrants would decrease the costs of crop adoption from the hunter-gatherers’ perspective, and personal encounters and transfer of cultivation knowledge were direct and continuous. 2. Wild resources maintained higher values on the east coast, where hunter-gatherer populations were supported by aquatic resources, and the mountainous interior where mobile hunting predominated. Flatlands suitable for farming are scarce in these zones. Future discounting, opportunity costs, and marginal value models predict that hunter-gatherers of the east coast and mountains delayed the full adoption of cultivation practices. This result may be tested using archaeological data and is relevant for other sub-tropical island agricultural adoption.


Hunter-Gatherers in Asia: From Prehistory to the Present is volume 106 of the Senri Ethnological Studies book series.

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This document was originally published in Hunter-Gatherers in Asia: From Prehistory to the Present by the National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku). Copyright restrictions may apply.

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