Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Early to middle Holocene earth-working implements and Neolithic land-use strategies on the Ningshao Plain, China
by Xie, Liye, Ph.D., The University of Arizona, 2014, 369; 3632292
Abstract (Summary)

My research uses a case study of Hemudu culture (7,000-5,000 BP) in eastern China to explore technological constraints of earth-working implements as a factor to explain the prolonged processes towards Neolithic agricultural land use and sedentary settlements.

Early Hemudu populations lived in small villages and cultivated rice in the lowlands. They employed earth-working implements made from water buffalo scapulae; however, these implements were replaced with stone variants after 6,000 BP. These phenomena invited the following questions: (1) how did bone earth-working implements become a tradition and persist until 6,000 BP; (2) why was use of these artifacts replaced by use of stone spades; and (3) how did the choices of earth-working implements affect land use? Following ideas from Human Behavioral Ecology, Dual-Inheritance Theory, and Behavioral Archaeology, I examined bone implements' use contexts, raw material availability and procurement, costs and benefits in manufacture, techno-functional performance characteristics, and the Hemudu people's social learning strategies. These investigations involved soil science, bone and stone technologies, use-wear analysis, and zooarchaeology, along with many controlled experiments. Multiple sources of evidence led to the conclusion that the early adoption of bone spades was encouraged by scapulae's convenient morphology and acquisition, and they fulfilled the functional needs at the beginning of Kuahuqiao (8,200-7000 BP) and Hemudu exploitation of lowland environments. Frequency-dependent bias helped ensure the persistence of bone spades in Hemudu even when raw material became scarce and other artifacts would have provided marginal functional advantages. This tradition imposed significant technical and conceptual constraints that inhibited the communities from adopting other forms of agriculture and settlement construction.

My research has broad implications to archaeological theories and methods for studying technological choices and our understanding of the pathways to agriculture and sedentism. It shows that although Human Behavioral Ecology and Dual-Inheritance Theory are useful for studying and interpreting technological choices, applying the framework proposed by Behavioral Archaeology helped lead to a stronger argument. Many of the analytical tools that I developed in this project can be used to investigate relevant questions in other times and cultures. My experimental designs can also be used as templates in future research.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Olsen, John W., Kuhn, Steven L.
Commitee: Holliday, Vance T., Schiffer, Michael B., Stiner, Mary C.
School: The University of Arizona
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 75/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Archaeology, Asian Studies
Keywords: Agriculture, Earthwork, Land use, Neolithic, Sedentism, Technology
Publication Number: 3632292
ISBN: 978-1-321-11588-8
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