[Special section on the Yiluo project] THE ROLE OF ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF COMPLEX SOCIETIES IN CHINA: A STUDY FROM THE HUIZUI SITE
AbstractHolocene environmental change on the Loess Plateau of China presented both opportunities and challenges for populations inhabiting the region. A study of sediment sections within the catchment of the Yiluo River, Henan Province, indicates a sequence beginning with a stable landscape and high water tables in the early MidHolocene corresponding to the Peiligang occupation, shifting to a period of valley alluviation in the later MidHolocene at the time of the Yangshao occupation. Alluvial sediments dating from 5300/5010 cal. BC through 2130/1870 cal. BC are waterlogged deposits that contain sediment and phytolith evidence for the first rice paddy farming in this region. This coincides with the first migration of rice farmers to the area in the Yangshao Period ca. 5500 cal. BC. After ca. 2000 cal. BC stream incision in this catchment led to narrowing floodplains, the disappearance of the marsh deposits, and a reduction in land available for paddy farming. Ironically, this period coincided with the first Chinese state society and large population increases, necessitating new agricultural and economic strategies on the part of the Early Bronze Age inhabitants of the Loess Plateau. This study illustrates how human responses to environmental change depend on social as well as environmental considerations.