Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-7ccbd9845f-hcslb Total loading time: 0.508 Render date: 2023-01-28T21:09:59.185Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Overbank flooding and human occupation of the Shalongka site in the Upper Yellow River Valley, northeast Tibet Plateau in relation to climate change since the last deglaciation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017


Increased flooding caused by global warming threatens the safety of coastal and river basin dwellers, but the relationship of flooding frequency, human settlement and climate change at long time scales remains unclear. Paleolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age cultural deposits interbedded with flood sediments were found at the Shalongka site near the north bank of the upper Yellow River, northeastern Tibetan Plateau. We reconstruct the history of overbank flooding and human occupation at the Shalongka site by application of optically stimulated luminescence and radiocarbon dating, grain size, magnetic susceptibility and color reflectance analysis of overbank sediment and paleosols. The reliability of OSL dating has been confirmed by internal checks and comparing with independent 14C ages; alluvial OSL ages have shown a systematic overestimation due to poor bleaching. Our results indicate that the Yellow River episodically overflowed and reached the Shalongka site from at least ~ 16 ka and lasting until ~ 3 ka. Soil development and reduced flooding occurred at ~ 15, ~ 8.3–5.4, and after ~ 3 ka, and prehistoric populations spread to the Shalongka site area at ~ 8.3, ~ 5.4, and ~ 3 ka. We suggest that climate change influenced the overbank flooding frequency and then affected prehistoric human occupation of the Shalongka site.

University of Washington

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Aitken, M.J. An Introduction to Optical Dating. (1998). Oxford University Press, Oxford. 359 Google Scholar
Aldenderfer, M.S. Modelling plateau peoples: the early human use of the world's high plateau. World Archaeology 38, (2006). 357370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Alley, R.B., Mayewski, P.A., Sowers, T., Stuiver, M., Taylor, K.C., and Clark, P.U. Holocene climatic instability: a prominent, widespread event 8200 yr ago. Geology 25, (1997). 483486.2.3.CO;2>CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Banerjee, D., Murray, A.S., and Bøtter–Jensen, L. Equivalent dose estimation using a single aliquot of polymineral fine grains. Radiation Measurements 33, (2001). 7394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Björck, S., Hjoft, C., Ingolfsson, O., and Skog, G. Radiocarbon dates from the Antarctic Peninsula region: problems and potentia1. Quarternary Proceedings 1, (1991). 5565.Google Scholar
BNCR (Bureau of National Cultural Relics), Atlas of Chinese Cultural Relics-Fascicule of Qinghai Province. (1996). China Cartograghic Publishing House Press, Beijing. (In Chinese) Google Scholar
Botzen, W.J.W., and Van Den Bergh, J.C.J.M. Managing natural disaster risks in a changing climate. Environmental Hazards 8, (2009). 209225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cai, Y.J., Zhang, H.W., Cheng, H., An, Z.S., Edwards, R.L., Wang, X.F., Tan, L.C., Liang, F.Y., and Wang, J. The Holocene Indian monsoon variability over the southern Tibetan Plateau and its teleconnections. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 335, (2012). 135144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chen, F.H., Qiang, M.R., Zhou, A.F., Xiao, S., and Chen, J.H. A 2000-year dust storm record from Lake Sugan in the dust source area of arid China. Journal of Geophysical Research 118, (2013). 21492160. Scholar
Cheng, H., Edwards, R.L., Broecker, W.S., Denton, G.H., Kong, X.G., Wang, Y.J., Zhang, R., and Wang, X.F. Ice age terminations. Science 326, (2009). 248252.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Colinan, S.M., Jones, G.A., Rubin, M., King, J.W., Peck, J.A., and Orem, W.H. AMS radiocarbon analyses from Lake Baikal, Siberia: challenges of dating sediments from a large, oligotrophic lake. Quaternary Geochronology 15, (1996). 669684.Google Scholar
de Moel, H., van Alphen, J., and Aerts, J.C.J.H. Flood maps in Europe-methods, availability and use. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 9, (2009). 289301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dietze, E., Wünnemann, B., Hartmann, K., Diekmann, B., Jin, H.J., Stauch, G., Yang, S.Z., and Lehmkuhl, F. Early to mid-Holocene lake high-stand sediments at Lake DonggiCona, northeastern Tibetan Plateau, China. Quaternary Research 79, (2013). 325336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dong, G.H., Jia, X., Robert, E., Chen, F.H., Li, S.C., Wang, L., Cai, L.H., and An, C.B. Spatial and temporal variety of prehistoric sites and its influencing factors in the upper Yellow River valley, Qinghai Province, China. Journal of Archaeological Science 40, (2013). 25382546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dong, G.H., Wang, L., Cui, Y.F., Robert, E., and Chen, F.H. The spatiotemporal pattern of the Majiayao cultural evolution and its relation to climate change and variety of subsistence strategy during late Neolithic period in Gansu and Qinghai Provinces, northwest China. Quaternary International 316, (2013). 155161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dong, G.H., Zhang, F.Y., Ma, M.M., Fan, Y.X., Wang, Z.L., Zhang, J.W., and Chen, F.H. Ancient landslide-dam events in the Jishi Gorge, upper Yellow River valley, China. Quaternary Research 81, (2014). 445451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dykoski, C.A., Edwards, R.L., Cheng, H., Yuan, D.X., Cai, Y.J., Zhang, M.L., Lin, Y.S., Qing, J.M., An, Z.S., and Revenaugh, J. A high resolution, absolute-dated Holocene and deglacial Asian monsoon record from Dongge Cave, China. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 233, (2005). 7186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fleitmann, D., Burns, S.J., Mudelsee, M., Neff, U., Kramers, J., Mangini, A., and Matter, A. Holocene forcing of the Indian monsoon recorded in a stalagmite from Southern Oman. Science 300, (2003). 17371739.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Galbraith, R.F., Roberts, R.G., Laslett, G.M., Yoshida, H., and Olley, J.M. Optical dating of single grain and multiple grains of quartz from Jinmium rock shelter, Northern Australia: part I, experimental design and statistical models. Archaeometry 41, (1999). 339364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gao, H., Zhu, C., and Xu, W. Environmental change and cultural response around 4200 cal. yr BP in the Yishu River Basin, Shandong. Journal of Geographical Sciences 17, (2007). 285292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Guedes, J., Lu, H.L., Li, Y.X., Spengler, R., Wu, X.H., and Aldenderfer, M. Moving agriculture onto the Tibetan plateau: the archaeobotanical evidence. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences (2013). Scholar
Han, W.X., Yu, L.P., Lai, Z.P., Madsen, D., and Yang, S.L. The earliest well-dated archaeological site in the hyper-arid Tarim Basin and its implications for prehistoric human migration and climatic changes. Quaternary Research 82, (2014). 6672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hou, G.L., Lai, Z.P., Sun, Y.J., and Ye, M.L. Luminescence and radiocarbon chronologies for the Xindian Culture site of Lamafeng in the Guanting Basin on the NE edge of the Tibetan Plateau. Quaternary Geochronology 10, (2012). 394398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Huang, C.C., Pang, J.L., Zha, X.C., Zhou, Y.L., Su, H.X., and Li, Y.Q. Extraordinary floods of 4100–4000 a BP recorded at the late Neolithic ruins in the Jinghe River gorges, middle reach of the Yellow River, China. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 289, (2010). 19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
IPCC, Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation. Field, C.B. et al. (2012). Cambridge Univ. Press, Google Scholar
Ji, J.F., Shen, J., Balsam, W., Chen, J., Liu, L.W., and Liu, X.Q. Asian monsoon oscillations in the northeastern Qinghai-Tibet Plateau since the late glacial as interpreted from visible reflectance of Qinghai Lake sediments. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 233, (2005). 6170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jia, X. Cultural Evolution Process and Plant Remains During Neolithic-bronze Age in Northeast Qinghai Province. (PhD thesis) (2012). Lanzhou University, Lanzhou. (in Chinese) Google Scholar
Jia, X., Dong, G., Li, H., Brunson, K., Chen, F., Ma, M., Wang, H., An, C., and Zhang, K. The development of agriculture and its impact on cultural expansion during the mid-late Neolithic in the western loess plateau, China. The Holocene 23, (2013). 8390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kidder, T.R., Liu, H.W., and Li, M.L. Sanyangzhuang: early farming and a Han settlement preserved beneath Yellow River flood deposits. Antiquity 86, (2012). 3047.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kidder, T.R., Liu, H.W., Xu, Q.H., and Li, M.L. The alluvial geoarchaeology of the Sanyangzhuang site on the Yellow River Floodplain, Henan Province, China. Geoarchaeology 27, (2012). 324343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lai, Z.P., Kaiser, K., and Brückner, H. Luminescence dated aeolian deposits of late Quaternary age in the southern Tibetan Plateau and their implications for landscape history. Quaternary Research 72, (2009). 421430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lai, Z.P., Mischke, S., and Madsen, D. Paleoenvironmental implications of new OSL dates on the formation of the “Shell Bar” in the Qaidam Basin, northeastern Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau. Journal of Paleolimnology 51, (2014). 197210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Li, S.H., Chen, Y.Y., Li, B., Sun, J.M., and Yang, L.R. OSL dating of sediments from deserts in northern China. Quaternary Geochronology 2, (2007). 2328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Liu, X.Q., Shen, J., Wang, S.M., Yang, X.D., Tong, G.B., and Zhang, E.L. A 16000-year pollen record of Qinghai Lake and its paleoclimate and paleoenvironment. Chinese Science Bulletin 47, (2002). 19311936.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ma, M.M., Dong, G.H., Chen, F.H., Meng, X.M., Wang, Z.L., Elston, R., and Li, G.Q. Process of paleofloods in Guanting basin, Qinghai Province, China and possible relation to monsoon strength during the mid-Holocene. Quaternary International 321, (2014). 8896.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Markey, B.G., Bøtter-Jensen, L., and Duller, G.A.T. A new flexible system for measuring thermally and optically stimulated luminescence. Radiation Measurements 27, (1997). 8389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Miao, Q., Qian, F., Zhao, Z.Z., and Liu, X.G. Terraces and evolution of the Yellow River in the Guide Segment. Geological Survey and Research 35, (2012). 3438. (In Chinese with English abstract) Google Scholar
Milly, P.C.D., Wetherald, R.T., Dunne, K.A., and Delworth, T.L. Increasing risk of great floods in a changing climate. Nature 415, (2002). 514517.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Min, S.-K., Zhang, X.B., Zwiers, F.W., and Hegerl, G.C. Human contribution to more-intense precipitation extremes. Nature 470, (2011). 378381.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Murray, A.S., and Wintle, A.G. Luminescence dating of quartz using an improved single aliquot regenerative dose protocol. Radiation Measurements 32, (2000). 5773.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Murray, A.S., and Wintle, A.G. The single aliquot regenerative dose protocol: potential for improvements in reliability. Radiation Measurements 37, (2003). 377381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pall, P., Aina, T., Stone, D.A., Stott, P.A., Nozawa, T., Hilberts, A.G.J., Lohmann, D., and Allen, M.R. Anthropogenic greenhouse gas contribution to flood risk in England and Wales in autumn 2000. Nature 470, (2011). 382385.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Peng, Y.J., Xiao, J.L., Nakamura, T., Liu, B.L., and Inouchi, Y. Holocene East Asian monsoonal precipitation pattern revealed by grain size distribution of core sediments of Daihai Lake in Inner Mongolia of north-central China. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 233, (2005). 467479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Prescott, J.R., and Hutton, J.T. Cosmic ray contributions to dose rates for luminescence and ESR dating: large depths and long-term time variations. Radiation Measurements 23, (1994). 497500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Przegiętka, K.R., and Chruścińska, A. Analysis of optical bleaching of OSL signal in sediment quartz. Radiation Measurements 56, (2013). 257261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Qiang, M.R., Chen, F.H., Zhang, J.W., Zu, R.P., Jin, M., Zhou, A.F., and Xiao, S. Grain size in sediments from Lake Sugan: a possible linkage to dust storm events at the northern margin of the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau. Environmental Geology 51, (2006). 12291238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Qiang, M.R., Song, L., Chen, F.H., Li, M.Z., Liu, X.X., and Wang, Q. A 16-ka lake-level record inferred from macrofossils in a sediment core from Genggahai Lake, northeastern Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau (China). Journal of Paleolimnology 49, (2013). 575590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Reimer, P.J., Baillie, M.G.L., Bard, E., Bayliss, A., Beck, J.W., Blackwell, P.G., Bronk Ramsey, C., Buck, C.E., Burr, G.S., Edwards, R.L., Friedrich, M., Guilderson, T.P., Hajdas, I., Heaton, T.J., Hogg, A.G., Hughen, K.A., Kaiser, K.F., Kromer, B., McCormac, G., Manning, S.W., Reimer, R.W., Richards, D.A., Southon, J.R., Talamo, S., Turney, C.S.M., van der Plicht, J., and Weyhenmeyer, C.E. IntCal09 and Marine09 radiocarbon age calibration curves, 0–50,000 years Cal BP. Radiocarbon 51, (2009). 11111150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rittenour, T.M. Luminescence dating of fluvial deposits: applications to geomorphic, palaeoseismic and archaeological research. Boreas 37, (2008). 613635.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Robertson, A.R. The CIE 1976 color-difference formulate. Color Research and Application 2, (1977). 711.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rodnight, H. How many equivalent dose values are needed to obtain a reproducible distribution?. Ancient TL 26, (2008). 39.Google Scholar
Shen, J., Liu, X.Q., Wang, S.M., and Matsumoto, R. Palaeoclimatic changes in the Qinghai Lake area during the last 18,000 years. Quaternary International 136, (2005). 131140.Google Scholar
Shi, X.M. Progress of research on palaeofloods. Journal of China Hydrology 27, (2007). 2428. (in Chinese) Google Scholar
Stuiver, M., and Reimer, P.J. Extended 14C database and revised CALIB radiocarbon calibration program. Radiocarbon 35, (1993). 215230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stuiver, M., Grootes, P.M., and Braziunas, T.F. The GISP2 ä18O climate record of the past 16500 years and the roles of the sun, ocean and volcanos. Quaternary Research 44, (1995). 341354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sun, Y.J., Lai, Z.P., Long, H., Liu, X.J., and Fan, Q.S. Quartz OSL dating of archaeological sites in Xiao Qaidam Lake of the NE Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau and its implications for palaeoenvironmental changes. Quaternary Geochronology 5, (2010). 360364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sun, Y.J., Lai, Z.P., Madsen, D., and Hou, G.L. Luminescence dating of a hearth from the archaeological site of Jiangxigou in the Qinghai Lake area of the northeastern Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau. Quaternary Geochronology 12, (2012). 107110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thompson, L.G., Yao, T.D., and Davis, M.E. Tropical climate instability: the last glacial cycle from a Qinghai–Tibetan ice core. Science 276, (1997). 18211825.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wang, N.L., Yao, T.D., Thompson, L.G., Henderson, K.A., and Davis, M.E. Evidence for cold events in the early Holocene from Guliya ice core, TP, China. Chinese Science Bulletin 47, (2002). 14221427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wang, R.L., Scarpitta, S.C., Zhang, S.C., and Zheng, M.P. Later Pleistocene/Holocene climate conditions of Qinghai—Xizang Plateau (Tibet) based on carbon and oxygen stable isotopes of Zabuye Lake sediments. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 203, (2002). 461477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wang, Y., Chan, H., Edwards, R.L., He, Y., Kong, X., An, Z., Wu, J., Kelly, M.G., and Dykoski, C.A. The Holocene Asian monsoon: links to solar changes and North Atlantic climate. Science 308, (2005). 854857.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wilby, R.L., Beven, K.J., and Reynard, N.S. Climate change and fluvial flood risk in the UK: more of the same?. Hydrological Processes 22, (2008). 25112523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yang, D., Yu, G., Xie, Y., Zhan, D., and Li, Z. Sedimentary records of large Holocene floods from the middle reaches of the Yellow River, China. Geomorphology 33, (2000). 7388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yang, X.Y., Xia, Z.K., and Ye, M.L. Prehistoric disasters at Lajia site, Qinghai, China. Chinese Science Bulletin 48, (2003). 18771881.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yin, Z.Q., Qin, X.G., Wu, J.S., and Ning, B. The multimodal grain-size distribution characteristics of loess, desert, lake and river sediment in some areas of northern China. Acta Sedimentologica Sinica 27, (2009). 343351. (in Chinese with English abstract) Google Scholar
YRCC (Yellow River Conservancy Commission), The People's Yellow River. (1959). Water Resources and Electric Power Press, Beijing. (in Chinese) Google Scholar
Yu, L.P., and Lai, Z.P. Holocene climate change inferred from stratigraphy and OSL chronology of aeolian sediments in the Qaidam Basin, northeastern Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau. Quaternary Research 81, (2014). 488499.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yu, X.F., Zhou, W.J., Franzen, Lars G., Xian, F., Cheng, P., and Tim Jull, A.J. High-resolution peat records for Holocene monsoon history in the eastern Tibetan Plateau. Science in China Series D: Earth Sciences 49, (2006). 615621.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zhan, D.J., and Xie, Y.B. Palaeoflood Study. (2001). China Water Power Press, Beijing. (in Chinese) Google Scholar
Zhang, J.F., and Zhou, L.P. Optimization of the ‘double SAR’ procedure for polymineral fine grains. Radiation Measurements 42, (2007). 14751482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zhang, J.F., Liu, C.L., Wu, X.H., Liu, K.X., and Zhou, L.P. Optically stimulated luminescence and radiocarbon dating of sediments from Lop Nur (LopNor), China. Quaternary Geochronology 10, (2012). 150155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zhao, H., Chen, F.-H., Li, S.-H., Wintle, A.G., Fan, Y.X., and Xia, D.S. A record of Holocene climate change in the Guanzhong Basin, China. The Holocene 17, (2007). 10151022.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zhao, H., Li, G.-Q., Sheng, Y.-W., Jin, M., and Chen, F.H. Early-middle Holocene Paleolake-desert evolution in northern Ulan-Buh desert, China. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 331–332, (2012). 3138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Overbank flooding and human occupation of the Shalongka site in the Upper Yellow River Valley, northeast Tibet Plateau in relation to climate change since the last deglaciation
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Overbank flooding and human occupation of the Shalongka site in the Upper Yellow River Valley, northeast Tibet Plateau in relation to climate change since the last deglaciation
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Overbank flooding and human occupation of the Shalongka site in the Upper Yellow River Valley, northeast Tibet Plateau in relation to climate change since the last deglaciation
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *