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The history of agriculture in the mountainous areas of the lower Yangtze River since the late Neolithic

Abstract

Understanding the role of agriculture in the development of human societies around the world is an important field of study with many unanswered questions. As a step toward that greater understanding, we have studied the archeobotanical remains at the Jingshuidun site in the mountainous areas of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River in southern Anhui Province which are part of the core area of rice cultivation today. Our analyses of macrobotanical remains and phytoliths formed the basis for the reconstruction of the subsistence economy of ancient humans at the Jingshuidun site from the late Neolithic to early historical times. When our data are combined with that of previous archeobotanical work, we obtain a clearer picture of the development of rice and millet agriculture in the southern Anhui Province region, as well as the spread of millet cultivation. Macrobotanical remains and phytoliths of domesticated rice are present in layers at the Jingshuidun site dated to 4874–4820 cal. yr B.P. (middle-late Liangzhu Period) and 2667–2568 cal. yr B.P. (late Western Zhou Dynasty to the early Spring and Autumn Period). Moreover, macrobotanical remains and phytoliths from the site document the earliest remains of foxtail millet (Setaria italica) in southern Anhui Province, from a layer dating to the late Western Zhou Dynasty and the early Spring and Autumn Period (2667-2568 cal. yr B.P.). These results suggest that the people occupying the Jingshuidun site used single rice farming as far back as 4874–4820 cal. yr B.P., and they began to plant millet by at least 2667–2568 cal. yr B.P., documenting the spread of millet agriculture to the southern area by that time.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Science (No. XDB26000000), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41877427), and the Youth Innovation Promotion Association of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (No. 2018099). We also thank the reviewers for valuable comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript, and Thomas Stidham provided valuable and extensive editorial feedback on a previous draft.

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Wang, J., Chen, X., Zhang, G. et al. The history of agriculture in the mountainous areas of the lower Yangtze River since the late Neolithic. Front. Earth Sci. (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11707-021-0956-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11707-021-0956-z

Keywords

  • southern Anhui
  • Jingshuidun site
  • rice
  • millet
  • phytolith