Environment and Culture Change in Neolithic Southeast China

By Jiao, Tianlong | Antiquity, September 2006 | Go to article overview

Environment and Culture Change in Neolithic Southeast China


Jiao, Tianlong, Antiquity


Introduction

The Neolithic cultures of the coast of Southeast China and Taiwan appeared in c. 6500 BP and subsequently underwent significant changes (Jiao 2004; Lin 1993). Various mechanisms have been proposed for these events, often in association with the expansion of the proto-Austronesians (Bellwood 1997, 2002; Diamond & Bellwood 2003; Chang 1995; Jiao 2004; Rolett et al. 2002; Tsang 1995, 2002). Some scholars have cited external causes such as population migration or cultural diffusion (Bellwood 2002; Chang 1995; Chang & Goodenough 1996; Tsang 2002), while others tend to emphasise internal culture changes (Lin 1993).

Another factor that may have been influential is that of the environment, since during the Neolithic period the climate, vegetation and sea level in Southeast China all changed significantly (Chen & Liu 1996; Tang et al. 1996b; Zheng & Li 2000). By drawing evidence from the relevant studies on the environment and from recent archaeological discoveries, I will here examine the way in which the environmental sequence may have been interconnected with the transformation of the Neolithic cultures. The environmental studies used comprise sea level, climate, flora and fauna. Having reviewed the sequence in each case, I will create a general model of environmental change and then align it with the cultural sequence as currently known. The results will show that the environment played a considerable role in the outcomes of the Neolithic period.

The environmental sequence--geomorphology

The geomorphology of the area has remained relatively stable since the early Holocene (Figure 1). The Wuyi Mountain system lies to the west of the region and separates southeast from central China. The mountains, extending from south-western Zhejiang to northeastern Guangdong Provinces, are steep and vertical on their western sides, and relatively gentle on their eastern sides; they rise to an average altitude of about 1000m and the range is 30-50 kilometres wide in the north and more than 100 kilometres wide in the south.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

The coast lines are highly irregular, with bays, beaches, dunes, marsh flat, deltas, estuaries, and rocky shores. There are more than a thousand off-shore islands in the marginal East China Sea. The high irregularity of the coastal line is particularly pronounced in the Fujian coast. The rivers in Southeast China have small drainage areas, and most of them flow independently into the East China Sea. Between the major rivers (Figure 1), there are hundreds of short streams also flowing separately into the East China Sea. The rivers run fast in the interior mountains, but become navigable nearer the sea and are ideal for transportation. The areas most favourable for humans to live are small basins and narrow riverine banks.

Sea level

The Holocene sea-level changes along the coast of Southeast China have been relatively well mapped using indicators such as the presence of marine shells (Chen & Liu 1996) or mangrove pollens, especially palynological evidence from boreholes on the Hanjiang Delta (Zheng & Li 2000). During the Last Glacial Maximum in the late Pleistocene, the sea level dropped up to--155m (Wang & Wang 1980), or--130m (Y. Huang et al. 1995), or--80m taking into account neo-tectonic movement in eastern China (Z. Huang et al. 1987). The coastline of East China advanced c. 600km offshore, and was then connected to Taiwan (Peng et al. 1984). Zheng and Li (2000) observed that this event brought exposure and weathering to the Hanjiang Delta, the sedimentation was interrupted, and the mangrove association was destroyed between 20 000 and 11 000 [14.sup]C yr BE

Around 10 000 BE the sea level started to rise in Southeast China, as indicated by the appearance and gradual increase of mangrove pollen, and continued to rise from 86007500 BE The percentage of mangrove pollen steadily increased, indicating that intertidal mangrove swamps were appearing in the delta.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Environment and Culture Change in Neolithic Southeast China
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.