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Macro-Process of Past Plant Subsistence from the Upper Paleolithic to Middle Neolithic in China: A Quantitative Analysis of Multi-Archaeobotanical Data.


ABSTRACT: Detailed studies of the long-term development of plant use strategies indicate that plant subsistence patterns have noticeably changed since the Upper Paleolithic, when humans underwent a transitional process from foraging to agriculture. This transition was best recorded in west Asia; however, information about how plant subsistence changed during this transition remains limited in China. This lack of information is mainly due to a limited availability of sufficiently large, quantified archaeobotanical datasets and a paucity of related synthetic analyses. Here, we present a compilation of extensive archaeobotanical data derived from interdisciplinary approaches, and use quantitative analysis methods to reconstruct past plant use from the Upper Paleolithic to Middle Neolithic in China. Our results show that intentional exploitation for certain targeted plants, particularly grass seeds, may be traced back to about 30,000 years ago during the Upper Paleolithic. Subsequently, the gathering of wild plants dominated the subsistence system; however, this practice gradually diminished in dominance until about 6~5 ka cal BP during the Middle Neolithic. At this point, farming based on the domestication of cereals became the major subsistence practice. Interestingly, differences in plant use strategies were detected between north and south China, with respect to (1) the proportion of certain plant taxa in assemblages, (2) the domestication rate of cereals, and (3) the type of plant subsistence practiced after the establishment of full farming. In conclusion, the transition from foraging to rice and millet agriculture in China was a slow and long-term process spanning 10s of 1000s of years, which may be analogous to the developmental paths of wheat and barley farming in west Asia.

SUBMITTER: Wang C 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC4740431 | BioStudies | 2016-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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