Main content area

Comparing subsistence strategies in different landscapes of North China 10,000 years ago

Yang, Xiaoyan, Ma, Zhikun, Li, Jun, Yu, Jincheng, Stevens, Chris, Zhuang, Yijie
aquatic plants, domestication, lakes, landscapes, millets, mountains, piedmont, rivers, terraces, China
A recent switch in the study of the beginning of agriculture is to demonstrate the increasingly closer interaction between people and the landscape and how this would have played a crucial role in the transition to agriculture. Understanding the palaeo-ecology of the local environments at key sites and its relationship with subsistence strategies is critical to an improved appreciation of such interactions. This article examines macro- and micro-plant remains discovered at two important sites in North China, both dated to around 10,000 cal. yr BP. These two sites, Zhuannian and Nanzhuangtou, are located on the terrace of the Bai River in the Yan Mountains and next to Baiyangdian Lake on the piedmont of the Taihang Mountains, respectively. The floral remains at these two sites provide a great opportunity to examine (1) post-Pleistocene subsistence strategies, (2) the increasing consumption of millets and grassy plants and its significance and (3) the intra-regional diversity in food exploitation and its relationships with local environments. While the macro-plant remains at Nanzhuangtou indicate the importance of aquatic plants in the palaeo-diet, those at Zhuannian suggest a tendency of exploiting tree plants. This significance of these diversified plant food exploitation strategies by the last hunter-gatherers should be paid more attention in future research. Our data also once again confirm the importance of millet consumption to these hunter-gatherers on the eve of millet domestication.