Article Geology

Chinese Science Bulletin

, Volume 56, Issue 8, pp 762-771

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Early agricultural development and environmental effects in the Neolithic Longdong basin (eastern Gansu)

  • XinYing ZhouAffiliated withState Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • , XiaoQiang LiAffiliated withState Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of SciencesLaboratory of Human Evolution and Archeological Science, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences Email author 
  • , KeLiang ZhaoAffiliated withState Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of SciencesGraduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • , John DodsonAffiliated withInstitute for Environmental Research, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization
  • , Nan SunAffiliated withState Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of SciencesGraduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • , Qing YangAffiliated withState Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of SciencesGraduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences

Abstract

Neolithic agricultural development and environmental effects in the Longdong area were reconstructed using a synthetic approach, investigating pollen, charcoal, and seed remains for two cultural layer sections and five flotation sites. Results show that Neolithic agriculture in the Longdong area had a simple organization and was dominated by the production of common millet, especially in the early and middle Yangshao age. After the late Yangshao age, Neolithic agriculture developed into a more complex structure, dominated by both common and foxtail millet and the cultivation of rice and soybeans. The production of foxtail millet gradually increased through the Neolithic period, reaching its highest point during the Qijia culture. Soybeans were first cultivated during the late Yangshao culture, approximately 5000 cal a BP. Rice production began no later than 4800 cal a BP, and continued to exist in the Qijia culture, approximately 4000 cal a BP. Agricultural production in Neolithic Longdong, specifically in the “Yuan” area of the loess plateau, developed as a shrub and grass dominated landscape. Vegetation in the river valleys was partly covered with Picea, Tusga, and Quercus coniferous and broadleaf mixed forests. Agricultural activity during the Neolithic period caused an increase in farmland on the loess tableland and a decrease in the abundance of shrub and grassland in the Longdong area. When farmlands were abandoned, vegetation recovered with Hippophae-, Rosaceae-, Ephedra-, and Leguminosae-dominated shrublands and Artemisia-dominated grasslands.

Keywords

eastern Gansu Neolithic early agriculture environmental effect pollen seed