Typha as a wetland food resource: evidence from the Tianluoshan site, Lower Yangtze Region, China

  • Yunan ZhangEmail author
  • Bas van Geel
  • William D. Gosling
  • Guoping Sun
  • Ling Qin
  • Xiaohong Wu
Original Article


Wetlands have been attractive environments for early communities worldwide. In China, wetlands offered natural ecological settings for the start of rice cultivation in the Lower Yangtze Region. Besides rice, Typha has been suspected to be an available wetland resource in previous studies at the Kuahuqiao site. Based on our pollen analyses of coprolites from the Neolithic Tianluoshan site, we examined the possible use of Typha pollen as a food source and the implications for human activities and the environment. Extremely high percentages of Typha in 21 samples and the presence of pollen aggregates provide strong evidence in favor of the consumption of Typha pollen. Ethnographical and archaeological records from elsewhere in the world support the idea that Typha pollen can be an ideal supplementary resource to compensate for the shortage of vegetables and fruits. The coexistence of Typha and rice also gives clues about the environmental background and agricultural management of early rice paddy, with respect to eutrophication, weeding and inundation.


Typha Wetland Food resource China Neolithic 



We thank Annemarie Philip and Britte Heijink for preparing the microfossil samples and Jan van Arkel for taking the pictures of Typha pollen. This work was supported by the China Scholarship Council ([2017]3109).

Supplementary material

334_2019_735_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (11 kb)
Electronic supplementary material 1 (XLSX 11 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yunan Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Bas van Geel
    • 2
  • William D. Gosling
    • 2
  • Guoping Sun
    • 3
  • Ling Qin
    • 1
  • Xiaohong Wu
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Archaeology and MuseologyPeking UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem DynamicsUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Zhejiang Provincial Institute of Relics and ArchaeologyHangzhouChina

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