[Special section on the Yiluo project] CONTEXTUAL ANALYSIS OF PLANT REMAINS AT THE ERLITOU-PERIOD HUIZUI SITE, HENAN, CHINA
AbstractThis paper examines intrasite distributional patterns of plant remains and their implications for plant use and disposal in the past. We analyzed charred plant remains from various excavated features dating to the Erlitou period at the Huizui regional center, Henan Province, China. The main subsistence strategy of the Erlitou period was dryland farming, as archaeologically evidenced by the dominance of dryland crops such as millet and soybean, and the new incorporation of wheat. However, wetland rice was more in use during the drier and cooler Erlitou than during the wetter and warmer preceding periods, and its regional distribution is restricted to major Erlitou centers. Therefore, rice likely played a primarily social role as a prestige crop and status symbol rather than satisfying basic dietary needs. At Huizui, quantities of plant remains by feature types are not correlated to the functions of the features, as defined by feature shape and size as well as artifact contents. Our quantitative analyses of plant remains suggest that the automatic dismissal of rare taxa as casual intrusions, which is common practice in archaeobotany, may be unwarranted, and that any quantitative classification of feature types by plant content is biased by sample size effects.