Climates of History in Ancient China: Lessons from Deep-Time and Cross-Cultural Perspectives

Author(s): Arlene Rosen

Year: 2015


In recent decades, studies of climate change and its impact on past societies have been colored by a veneer of political agenda and oversimplification of how ancient societies might have actually responded to changes in their environments. Although many of these climatic changes would have profoundly impacted economic systems of past societies, these social and economic systems have often demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of such changes. Other times, abrupt environmental changes initiated profound transformations in past societies. The scholarship and published works of Brian Fagan have provided us with an invaluable compilation of case studies which help to illuminate the complex responses of societies to environmental change in both the distant past and within historical periods. In the spirit of honoring this contribution, this paper relates a sequence of environmental changes and human responses in northern China beginning with the Neolithic Holocene Climatic Optimum that encouraged rice farmers to spread to the moist valleys of the Loess Plateau, the abrupt onset of drier conditions which coincided with the first state society in the Early Bronze Age Erlitou Period, and the impact of droughts on the expanding Han Empire at the beginning of the Iron Age in China.

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Cite this Record

Climates of History in Ancient China: Lessons from Deep-Time and Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Arlene Rosen. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396559)


Spatial Coverage

min long: 66.885; min lat: -8.928 ; max long: 147.568; max lat: 54.059 ;