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The transition to agriculture in northwestern China

Bettinger, RL and Barton, L and Richerson, PJ and Boyd, R and Wang, H and Choi, W (2007) The transition to agriculture in northwestern China. In: UNSPECIFIED UNSPECIFIED, 83 - 101. ISBN UNSPECIFIED

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Agriculture can evolve independently only where intensive hunter-gatherer plant use has previously evolved, and both developments are limited by two major evolutionary constraints: climatic variability and social convention. During the Pleistocene, environmental variability constrained plant productivity and therefore plant-intensive subsistence; but during the Holocene it was the hunter-gatherer social conventions that constrained the evolution of plant-based agricultural subsistence. Specifically, in places with continuous hunter-gatherer occupation (i.e., the Near East), social conventions prohibiting the ownership of land curtailed intensification and prolonged the transition to agriculture. In contrast, northwest China was virtually uninhabited during the Early Holocene. Here, new social orders favoring the ownership of land were free to emerge without restriction, so the transition to agriculture was rapid. Semi-permanent settlements and domesticated broomcorn millet emerged abruptly in the western Loess Plateau at Dadiwan by 7.0 ka with no local hunter-gatherer ancestry. We propose that the intensive plant specialization required for domestication and incipient agriculture emerged first in the desert margins north of the Yellow River and migrated southwards to the more humid and fertile floodplains of the Loess Plateau west of the Liu Pan Mountains, perhaps in response to increasing aridity and climatic instability during the Early Holocene. © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


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Item Type: Book Section
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Bettinger, RL
Barton, Lloukas@pitt.eduLOUKAS0000-0003-1519-4226
Richerson, PJ
Boyd, R
Wang, H
Choi, W
Centers: Other Centers, Institutes, Offices, or Units > Center for Comparative Archaeology
Date: 1 December 2007
Date Type: Publication
Volume: 9
Page Range: 83 - 101
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1016/s1571-0866(07)09008-2
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Anthropology
Refereed: Yes
Date Deposited: 23 Oct 2014 18:02
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2019 15:58


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