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Early–middle Holocene ecological change and its influence on human subsistence strategies in the Luoyang Basin, north-central China

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 February 2018

Junna Zhang
Laboratory for Environmental Archaeology, Archaeological Research Center, Beijing Union University, Beijing 100191, China
Zhengkai Xia
College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
Xiaohu Zhang
Henan Provincial Institute of Archeology and Cultural Heritage, Zhengzhou 450000, China
Michael J. Storozum
Department of Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri 63130, USA
Xiaozhong Huang
MOE Key Laboratory of Western China’s Environmental Systems, College of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China
Jianye Han
School of History, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China
Hong Xu
Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing 100710, China
Haitao Zhao
Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing 100710, China
Yifu Cui
MOE Key Laboratory of Western China’s Environmental Systems, College of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China
John Dodson
Institute of Earth Environments, Chinese Academy of Science, Xi’an, Shaanxi 710052, China
Guanghui Dong
MOE Key Laboratory of Western China’s Environmental Systems, College of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China


In north-central China, subsistence practices transitioned from hunting and gathering to millet-based agriculture between the early and middle Holocene. To better understand how ancient environmental changes influenced this shift in subsistence strategies and human activities at regional to local levels, we conducted palynological and lithologic analyses on radiocarbon-dated sediment cores from the Luoyang Basin, western Henan Province. Our palynological results suggest that vegetation shifted from broad-leaved deciduous forest (9230–8850 cal yr BP) to steppe-meadow vegetation (8850–7550 cal yr BP), and then to steppe with sparse trees (7550–6920 cal yr BP). Lithologic analyses also indicate that the stabilization of the Luoyang Basin’s floodplain after ~8370 cal yr BP might have attracted people to move into the basin, promoting the emergence of millet-based agriculture during the Peiligang culture period (8500–7000 cal yr BP). Once agricultural practices emerged, the climatic optimum after ~7550 cal yr BP likely facilitated the expansion of the Yangshao culture (7000–5000 cal yr BP) in north-central China. As agriculture intensified, pollen taxa related to human disturbance, such as Urtica, increased in abundance.

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Copyright © University of Washington. Published by Cambridge University Press, 2018 

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