River Valleys and Foothills: Changing Archaeological Perceptions of North China's Earliest Farms

By Liu, Xinyi; Hunt, Harriet V. et al. | Antiquity, March 2009 | Go to article overview

River Valleys and Foothills: Changing Archaeological Perceptions of North China's Earliest Farms


Liu, Xinyi, Hunt, Harriet V., Jones, Martin K., Antiquity


Introduction

In recent decades discussions of the beginnings of agriculture have increasingly drawn attention to developments in China (MacNeish 1991; Smith 1998; Bellwood 2004; Barker 2007). Global synopses, as well as those concerned specifically with East Asia (Yan 1992; Underhill 1997; Lu 1999, 2002, 2005; Bellwood 2006; Underhill & Habu 2006) have emphasised the prehistory of two great river valleys, the Changjiang (Yangtze River) to the south, and the Huanghe (Yellow River) to the north. A valley-based model of agricultural beginnings in China has been prominent since the first publications of the topic in English, notably Chang (1963) and An (1989). In mainland China itself, a multidimensional regional model replaced the traditional interpretation of a single centre of Chinese civilisation (Su & Yin 1981; Su 1999). Within this model, the middle and lower reaches of the two great river valleys, the Changjiang and the Huanghe, form the prime fool for discussions of agricultural origins (Huang 1983; Yan 1990, 2000; Chen 2005).

However, a number of authors have drawn attention to the location of the early sites in the foothills rather than the valley bottom (Ho 1979; Li & Lu 1981; Tong 1984; Shi 1992), and we explore this theme here, in the context of an archaeobotanical data set that has recently expanded within North China. We draw on recent evidence to question the valley-based model and situate agricultural origins within an alternative geographical framework.

We shall review the archaeobotanical evidence for millet use in these cultures, and consider the regional patterning of that evidence. In the light of those patterns, we shall explore their relationships to a chain of rain-fed foothills lying beyond the plains of the Yellow River. These relationships will be considered in the context of patterns and topographical relationships similarly observed in the early farming landscapes of south-west Asia.

Pre-5000 BC cultures with records of millets

Five pre-5000 BC site clusters have been connected with the early farming of millet, either broomcorn orfi (Panicum miliaceum) or foxtail or su (Setaria italica). These are listed, with their approximate chronology, in Table 1 and located in Figure 1. The Cishan-Peiligang sites (6500-5000 BC) are located on the eastern foothills of the Taihang and Funiu mountains, running into the major alluvial plain in North China, the Huabei Plain. On the Loess Plateau to the west of the Cishan-Peiligang cultural distribution, the Dadiwan-Laoguantai culture (5850-5400 BC) extends along both the north and the south flanks of a tributary of the Yellow River, the Wei River. At the mouth of the current Yellow River watercourse, in Shandong province, lie sites of the Houli culture (6450-5300 BC), mostly located on the alluvial fan of the western foothills of the Yitai Mountains. The culture extends into the more hilly area in the Yitai mountains.

The other two cultures associated with early millet lie well beyond the Yellow River. Sites of the Xinglongwa culture (6200-5400 BC) are broadly distributed in the Chifeng region in Inner Mongolia, where the Daxing'an Mountains join the Yah Mountains. The Xinle culture (6000-5500 BC) is encountered near Shenyang city, approximately 400kin east of the Xinglongwa sites.

Four sites, from three of the above cultures, are mentioned in the works of Chang and An: Cishan, Peiligang, Xinle and Dadiwan. These sites have been repeatedly cited in English-language references discussing early agriculture in northern China (Chang 1986; An 1989; Crawford 1992; Yan 1992; Underhill 1997; Cohen 1998; Lu 1999; Jones 2004). In the last decade, there has been substantial progress in terms both of systematic archaeobotanical research and of re-examination of previously-excavated material (Liu & Chert 2004; Liu, C. et al. 2004; Zhao 2005; Crawford et al. 2007; Lee et al. 2007), extending the number of sites and the number of culture groups from three to five.

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

River Valleys and Foothills: Changing Archaeological Perceptions of North China's Earliest Farms
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.