International Society for Quantitative History

QH Webinar Series

Changing Views of Terminal Pleistocene Economies in South China: Tales from Two Caves

12:00 | Thursday, December 2, 2021

Zoom Webinar

English

David J. Cohen

David J. Cohen

Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, National Taiwan University

HUNAN PROVINCIAL MUSEUM, * 2006, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

David J. Cohen of National Taiwan University considers changes in interpretations of human behavior and economies at two key Terminal Pleistocene cave sites in South China, Xianrendong (Jiangxi) and Yuchanyan (Hunan), over the past thirty years of research. Both sites are seen as critical in understanding the transition from mobile hunting-gathering to sedentary agricultural production— perhaps the most fundamental change in human prehistory. Excavations in the 1990s revealed pottery and rice remains that at the time were thought to date between 10,000-15,000 years ago. Although revealing cobble tool industries typical of the Late Paleolithic in South China and Southeast Asia, the sites were interpreted as “Early Neolithic” habitats of early cultivators of rice. This equating of pottery to the Neolithic stems from biases in models derived from other world areas. Collaborative excavations in the 2000s (in which David J. Cohen took part) employed systematic radiocarbon dating combined with soil micromorphology and other behaviorally-oriented, multidisciplinary research methodologies and theoretical orientations. These have led to shifts in interpretation where we now see the caves as likely seasonal sites of mobile hunter-gatherers with broad-spectrum economies who were using these caves in new ways, including producing the world’s earliest pottery, dating 20,000 and 18,000 years ago.

In this Quantitative History Webinar, David J. Cohen presents the evidence of food resource intensification and new, intensive forms of pyrotechnology, providing new insights into the functions of these caves, potential connections with pottery making, and the nature of behavioral modernity in South China, which was previously obscured by traditional typological approaches.

Discussant: Zhiwu Chen, Chair Professor of Finance, HKU Business School 

Live on Zoom on December 2, 2021
12:00 Hong Kong/Beijing/Singapore
13:00 Tokyo | 15:00 Sydney
Previous Day 20:00 Los Angeles | 23:00 New York

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Zoom Webinar

David J. Cohen

English

The Quantitative History Webinar Series aims to provide researchers, teachers, and students with an online intellectual platform to keep up to date with the latest research in the field, promoting the dissemination of research findings and interdisciplinary use of quantitative methods in historical research. The Series, now in its third year, is co-organized by the International Society for Quantitative History, HKU Business School, and Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences. 量化歷史網上講座系列由香港大學陳志武和馬馳騁教授聯合發起,旨在介紹前沿量化歷史研究成果、促進同仁交流,推廣量化方法在歷史研究中的應用。本系列講座由國際量化歷史學會、香港大學經管學院和香港人文社會研究所全力支持和承辦。

Conveners: Professor Zhiwu Chen & Dr. Chicheng Ma (HKU Business School)

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