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Early commensal interaction between humans and hares in Neolithic northern China

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 May 2020

Pengfei Sheng
Affiliation:
Institute of Archaeological Science, Fudan University, P.R. China Department of Cultural Heritage and Museology, Fudan University, P.R. China
Yaowu Hu
Affiliation:
Institute of Archaeological Science, Fudan University, P.R. China Department of Cultural Heritage and Museology, Fudan University, P.R. China
Zhouyong Sun
Affiliation:
Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, Xi'an, P.R. China
Liping Yang
Affiliation:
Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, Xi'an, P.R. China
Songmei Hu
Affiliation:
Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, Xi'an, P.R. China
Benjamin T. Fuller
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies, Aarhus University, Denmark
Xue Shang*
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, P.R. China Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, P.R. China
*
*Author for correspondence: ✉ shangxue@ucas.ac.cn

Abstract

Human influence on ecological niches can drive rapid changes in the diet, behaviour and evolutionary trajectories of small mammals. Archaeological evidence from the Late Neolithic Loess Plateau of northern China suggests that the expansion of millet cultivation created new selective pressures, attracting small mammals to fields and settlements. Here, the authors present direct evidence for commensal behaviour in desert hares (Lepus capensis), dating to c. 4900 years ago. Stable isotope ratio analysis of hare bones from the Neolithic site at Yangjiesha shows a diachronic increase in a C4 (millet-based) diet, revealing, for the first time, the expansion of ancient human-hare interactions beyond the predator-prey relationship.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd, 2020

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