Shifting diets and the rise of male-biased inequality on the Central Plains of China during Eastern Zhou.
ABSTRACT: Farming domesticated millets, tending pigs, and hunting constituted the core of human subsistence strategies during Neolithic Yangshao (5000-2900 BC). Introduction of wheat and barley as well as the addition of domesticated herbivores during the Late Neolithic (?2600-1900 BC) led to restructuring of ancient Chinese subsistence strategies. This study documents a dietary shift from indigenous millets to the newly introduced cereals in northcentral China during the Bronze Age Eastern Zhou Dynasty (771-221 BC) based on stable isotope analysis of human and animal bone samples. Our results show that this change affected females to a greater degree than males. We find that consumption of the newly introduced cereals was associated with less consumption of animal products and a higher rate of skeletal stress markers among females. We hypothesized that the observed separation of dietary signatures between males and females marks the rise of male-biased inequality in early China. We test this hypothesis by comparing Eastern Zhou human skeletal data with those from Neolithic Yangshao archaeological contexts. We find no evidence of male-female inequality in early farming communities. The presence of male-biased inequality in Eastern Zhou society is supported by increased body height difference between the sexes as well as the greater wealth of male burials.
Project description:Baligang is a Neolithic site on a northern tributary of the middle Yangtze and provides a long archaeobotanical sequence from the Seventh Millennium BC upto the First Millennium BC. It provides evidence for developments in rice and millet agriculture influenced by shifting cultural affiliation with the north (Yangshao and Longshan) and south (Qujialing and Shijiahe) between 4300 and 1800 BC. This paper reports on plant macro-remains (seeds), from systematic flotation of 123 samples (1700 litres), producing more than 10,000 identifiable remains. The earliest Pre-Yangshao occupation of the sites provide evidence for cultivation of rice (Oryza sativa) between 6300-6700 BC. This rice appears already domesticated in on the basis of a dominance of non-shattering spikelet bases. However, in terms of grain size changes has not yet finished, as grains are still thinner than more recent domesaticated rice and are closer in grain shape to wild rices. This early rice was cultivated alongside collection of wild staple foods, especially acorns (Quercus/Lithicarpus sensu lato). In later periods the sites has evidence for mixed farming of both rice and millets (Setaria italica and Panicum miliaceum). Soybean appears on the site in the Shijiahe period (ca.2500 BC) and wheat (Triticum cf. aestivum) in the Late Longshan levels (2200-1800 BC). Weed flora suggests an intensification of rice agriculture over time with increasing evidence of wetland weeds. We interpret these data as indicating early opportunistic cultivation of alluvial floodplains and some rainfed rice, developing into more systematic and probably irrigated cultivation starting in the Yangshao period, which intensified in the Qujialing and Shijiahe period, before a shift back to an emphasis on millets with the Late Longshan cultural influence from the north.
Project description:The introduction of wheat into central China is thought to have been one of the significant contributions of interactions between China and Central Asia which began in the 3rd millennium bc. However, only a limited number of Neolithic wheat grains have been found in central China and even fewer have been directly radiocarbon dated, making the date when wheat was adopted in the region and its role in subsistence farming uncertain. Based on systematic archaeobotanical data and direct dating of wheat remains from the Xiazhai site in central China, as well as a critical review of all reported discoveries of Neolithic and Bronze Age wheat from this region, we conclude that many wheat finds are intrusive in Neolithic contexts. We argue that the role of wheat in the subsistence of the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age of central China was minimal, and that wheat only began to increase in its subsistence role in the later Bronze Age during the Zhou dynasty after ca. 1000 bc.
Project description:OBJECTIVES:Using stable isotope analysis of incremental dentin segments, we reconstruct breastfeeding, weaning, and childhood dietary patterns of Eastern Zhou period (771-221 BC) individuals from the Central Plains of China. Previous isotopic research on the Eastern Zhou demonstrated dietary difference between male and female diets in adulthood via bone collagen analysis. To understand the development of gendered dietary patterns we must examine the early life period. We aim to identify the timing of the weaning process, whether childhood diets were the same as adulthood diets, and if there were differences between the diets of boys and girls during childhood. MATERIALS AND METHODS:We present incremental dentin and bone collagen ?13 C and ?15 N isotope data from 23 individuals from two Eastern Zhou archaeological sites (Xiyasi and Changxinyuan ). RESULTS:Weaning was completed between ages 2.5 and 4?years. Females were weaned slightly earlier than males. Early childhood diets show significant incorporation of C3 foods, such as wheat and soybean, for almost all children, while later adulthood diets indicate greater incorporation of C4 foods (millets), particularly for males. DISCUSSION:Childhood diets included greater amounts of C3 foods than expected, suggesting that grains such as wheat may have been adopted in these communities as foods for children. Nevertheless, dietary differentiation between females and males began in childhood, with boys eating more millets (C4 foods) than girls. The findings suggest that feeding children was a significant aspect of socialization and cultural gendering of individuals in ancient China.
Project description:The study of plant exploitation and early use of cereals in Africa has seen over the years a great input from charred and desiccated macrobotanical remains. This paper presents the results of one of the few examples in Africa of microbotanical analyses. Three grave contexts of phytolith-rich deposits and the dental calculus of 20 individuals were analysed from two Neolithic cemeteries in North and Central Sudan. The radiocarbon-dated phytoliths from the burial samples show the presence of Near East domestic cereals in Northern Sudan at least 7000 years ago. Phytoliths also indicate the exploitation of wild, savannah-adapted millets in Central Sudan between 7500 and 6500 years ago. The calculus samples contained starch grains from wheat/barley, pulses and millets, as well as panicoid phytoliths. This evidence shows that Near East domestic cereals were consumed in Northern Africa at least 500 years earlier than previously thought.
Project description: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.
Project description:The European Neolithization ~6000-4000 BC represents a pivotal change in human history when farming spread and the mobile style of life of the hunter-foragers was superseded by the agrarian culture. Permanent settlement structures and agricultural production systems required fundamental innovations in technology, subsistence, and resource utilization. Motivation, course, and timing of this transformation, however, remain debatable. Here we present annually resolved and absolutely dated dendroarchaeological information from four wooden water wells of the early Neolithic period that were excavated in Eastern Germany. A total of 151 oak timbers preserved in a waterlogged environment were dated between 5469 and 5098 BC and reveal unexpectedly refined carpentry skills. The recently discovered water wells enable for the first time a detailed insight into the earliest wood architecture and display the technological capabilities of humans ~7000 years ago. The timbered well constructions made of old oak trees feature an unopened tree-ring archive from which annually resolved and absolutely dated environmental data can be culled. Our results question the principle of continuous evolutionary development in prehistoric technology, and contradict the common belief that metal was necessary for complex timber constructions. Early Neolithic craftsmanship now suggests that the first farmers were also the first carpenters.
Project description:Tetraploid emmer wheat (Triticum turgidum ssp. dicoccon) is a progenitor of the world's most widely grown crop, hexaploid bread wheat (Triticum aestivum), as well as the direct ancestor of tetraploid durum wheat (T. turgidum subsp. turgidum). Emmer was one of the first cereals to be domesticated in the old world; it was cultivated from around 9700 BC in the Levant1,2 and subsequently in south-western Asia, northern Africa and Europe with the spread of Neolithic agriculture3,4. Here, we report a whole-genome sequence from a museum specimen of Egyptian emmer wheat chaff, 14C dated to the New Kingdom, 1130-1000 BC. Its genome shares haplotypes with modern domesticated emmer at loci that are associated with shattering, seed size and germination, as well as within other putative domestication loci, suggesting that these traits share a common origin before the introduction of emmer to Egypt. Its genome is otherwise unusual, carrying haplotypes that are absent from modern emmer. Genetic similarity with modern Arabian and Indian emmer landraces connects ancient Egyptian emmer with early south-eastern dispersals, whereas inferred gene flow with wild emmer from the Southern Levant signals a later connection. Our results show the importance of museum collections as sources of genetic data to uncover the history and diversity of ancient cereals.
Project description:Stable isotope biochemistry (delta(13)C and delta(15)N) and radiocarbon dating of ancient human and animal bone document 2 distinct phases of plant and animal domestication at the Dadiwan site in northwest China. The first was brief and nonintensive: at various times between 7900 and 7200 calendar years before present (calBP) people harvested and stored enough broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum) to provision themselves and their hunting dogs (Canis sp.) throughout the year. The second, much more intensive phase was in place by 5900 calBP: during this time both broomcorn and foxtail (Setaria viridis spp. italica) millets were cultivated and made significant contributions to the diets of people, dogs, and pigs (Sus sp.). The systems represented in both phases developed elsewhere: the earlier, low-intensity domestic relationship emerged with hunter-gatherers in the arid north, while the more intensive, later one evolved further east and arrived at Dadiwan with the Yangshao Neolithic. The stable isotope methodology used here is probably the best means of detecting the symbiotic human-plant-animal linkages that develop during the very earliest phases of domestication and is thus applicable to the areas where these connections first emerged and are critical to explaining how and why agriculture began in East Asia.
Project description:Based on chronological and archaeobotanical studies of 15 Neolithic and Bronze Age sites from the northern Chinese Loess Plateau and southern Inner Mongolia-the agro-pastoral zone of China-we document changes in the agricultural system over time. The results show that wheat and rice were not the major crops of the ancient agricultural systems in these areas, since their remains are rarely recovered, and that millet cultivation was dominant. Millet agriculture increased substantially from 3000 BC-2000 BC, and foxtail millet evidently comprised a high proportion of the cultivated crop plants during this period. In addition, as the human population increased from the Yangshao to the Longshan periods, the length and width of common millet seeds increased by 20-30%. This demonstrates the co-evolution of both plants and the human population in the region. Overall, our results reveal a complex agricultural-gardening system based on the cultivation of common millet, foxtail millet, soybeans and fruit trees, indicating a high food diversity and selectivity of the human population.
Project description:The subsistence of Neolithic populations is based on agriculture, whereas that of previous populations was based on hunting and gathering. Neolithic spreads due to dispersal of populations are called demic, and those due to the incorporation of hunter-gatherers are called cultural. It is well-known that, after agriculture appeared in West Africa, it spread across most of subequatorial Africa. It has been proposed that this spread took place alongside with that of Bantu languages. In eastern and southeastern Africa, it is also linked to the Early Iron Age. From the beginning of the last millennium BC, cereal agriculture spread rapidly from the Great Lakes area eastwards to the East African coast, and southwards to northeastern South Africa. Here we show that the southwards spread took place substantially more rapidly (1.50-2.27 km/y) than the eastwards spread (0.59-1.27 km/y). Such a faster southwards spread could be the result of a stronger cultural effect. To assess this possibility, we compare these observed ranges to those obtained from a demic-cultural wave-of-advance model. We find that both spreads were driven by demic diffusion, in agreement with most archaeological, linguistic and genetic results. Nonetheless, the southwards spread seems to have indeed a stronger cultural component, which could lead support to the hypothesis that, at the southern areas, the interaction with pastoralist people may have played a significant role.