The Roots of the Modern Anthropocene: The Yellow River Valley, China, 5000-2000 BP

Author(s): Tristram Kidder

Year: 2015


I use geoarchaeological data to argue that human activity in the late Holocene transformed the environments of the Yellow River, China, into an anthropogenic landscape and that these changes altered China’s history. Ancient China provides a critical case study for understanding how economic intensification, demographic change, technological innovation, and political centralization combine to create the roots of the modern Anthropocene. The Yellow River-- known as "China’s Sorrow"—is seen as a natural scourge that afflicts the inhabitants of North China. However, when viewed over the long term, China’s Sorrow is clearly the result of human manipulation of the environment. These data provide an archaeological perspective on contemporary transformations in China. Today, China is developing economically at a stunning pace; it isn’t clear that this rate of change is environmentally sustainable. Many of the environmental issues facing contemporary China, however, have been experienced in the past—albeit at a different scale—and it is instructive to understand how Chinese society has grappled with these issues and which approaches and strategies have been successful and which have failed.

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Cite this Record

The Roots of the Modern Anthropocene: The Yellow River Valley, China, 5000-2000 BP. Tristram Kidder. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397167)


Spatial Coverage

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