Plant exploitation of the last foragers at Shizitan in the Middle Yellow River Valley China: evidence from grinding stones
- 人文学院－已发表论文 
China is one of the few centers in the world where plant domestication evolved independently, but its developmental trajectory is poorly understood. This is because there is considerably less data from the terminal Pleistocene and early Holocene documented in China than in other regions, such as the Near East and Mesoamerica, and previous studies on Paleolithic subsistence in China have largely focused on animal hunting rather than plant gathering. To resolve these problems the current research investigated the range of plants used by late Paleolithic hunter-gatherers in the middle Yellow River region where some of the earliest farmers emerged. We employed usewear and starch analyses on grinding stones to recover evidence for plant use in a hunting-gathering population at a late Paleolithic site, Shizitan Locality 9 in Jixian, Shanxi (ca. 13,800-8500 cal. BP). The usewear analysis shows that all artifacts preserved a range of usewear patterns best matching multiple tasks and indicating multi-functional use. Starch remains recovered from these tools indicate that the Shizitan people collected and processed many types of grass seeds (Panicoideae and Pooideae subfamilies), acorns (Quercus sp.), beans (Phaseoleae tribe) and yams (Dioscorea sp.). The Shizitan people represented some of the last hunter-gatherers in the middle Yellow River region. Their broad spectrum subsistence strategy was apparently carried on by the first Neolithic farmers in the same region, who collected similar wild plants and eventually domesticated millets. The trajectory from intensified collection of a wide range of wild plants to domestication of a small number of species was a very long process in north China. This parallels the transition from the "broad spectrum revolution" to agriculture in the Near East. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.