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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Subsistence of Neolithic Pearl River Estuary area, South China Li, Guo


The thesis is a study of the subsistence of the Pearl River Estuary (abbreviated as PRE) area in the southernmost Mainland China during the Neolithic (6,000-3,500 BP). Despite poor preservation of organic subsistence material in this (sub) tropical and coastal area, important Neolithic sites, artifacts and faunal remains have been unearthed in recent years. Some new methods such as isotopic analysis have been employed. To make good use of the data and make up for the geographic disadvantage in preservation, it is attempted in this thesis to summarize and interpret available archaeological material, coupled with site catchment analysis, to address the subsistence. First, the subsistence of the Early Neolithic of Lingnan is discussed, and used as a fore-scene to suggest the PRE subsistence appearing later in the Middle Neolithic. Second, ecofact, artifact and site data of the PRE (Middle/Late Neolithic) are synthesized, serving as a solid but limited factual foundation for assessing the subsistence. Finally, site catchment analysis is used to enhance or mutually verify with the empirical material, or to provide new lines of reference. Ecological data are integrated wherever possible. The conclusion is that the Neolithic subsistence of the PRE would have been generally foraging based, particularly fishing and mollusk collecting. However, farming would have been playing more and more important role, especially during the Late Phase of the Late Neolithic (4,300-3,500 BP), with probable economic and political interactions with rice farming cultures, increase of sedentism, exchange and population, and of social competition with other groups in South China. The PRE case tends to confirm to the understanding that even though farming skill was mastered, if foraging resources were rich and handy, foraging would have prevailed and farming might have been maintained to the minimum just as a supplement.

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