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Environmental And Cultural Changes During The Terminal Neolithic: Qingpu, Yangtze Delta, Eastern China

Freea Itzstein-Davey, Pia Atahan, John Dodson, David Taylor, Hongbo Zheng

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The lower Yangtze, eastern China, was colonized by several Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures giving rise to possibly the highest concentration of prehistoric sites in the world. Early Neolithic cultures in the delta region cultivated rice ( Oryza sativa) and agricultural developments appear to have occurred throughout the Neolithic with abrupt socio-economic changes possibly associated with the terminal Neolithic. Given the extensive history of environmental exploitation and well-preserved archaeological sites, the Yangtze delta is an ideal setting to explore the complex interactions between humans and their environment. Multiproxies of environmental changes, namely pollen, charcoal and phytoliths, in a 14C AMS-dated sequence of sediments from an exposed profile at Qingpu, Yangtze delta, were investigated. 14C AMS dating indicates that the age range of the sedimentary sequence analysed is from c. 1800 to 6000 BP, and therefore encompasses the terminal Neolithic and subsequent Bronze Age in the region. This paper reviews this sediment-based evidence in the light of current understanding of human—environment interactions during a critical phase of the development of the Yangtze delta and associated human cultures.