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Ref ID: 36550
Ref Type: Thesis-PhD
Authors: Pechenkina, Ekaterina Alexandrovna
Title: Diet and health changes among the millet-growing farmers of northern China in prehistory
Date: 2002
Place of Publication: Columbia
Publisher: University of Missouri
Type: PhD
Abstract: Both Yangshao (7,000–5,000 BP) and Longshan (5,000–3,000 BP) Neolithic cultural traditions of Northern China were dependent on millet agriculture and herding. Change to a cooler and drier climate at approximately 5,000 years ago brought the stable Yangshao society to a gradual demise. The subsequent rise of Longshan cultural tradition corresponded to rapid population growth and its aggregation into larger settlements. This was also a time of incipient society stratification, increase in social complexity and tension (Liu, 1996a). Here I use dental macrowear, stable isotope determinations and a broad spectrum of oral pathology indicators to assess dietary changes at the end of Yangshao and during Yangshao/Longshan transition. Non-specific health indicators such as achieved adult stature, porotic hyperostosis, and linear enamel hypoplasia were used to evaluate trends in community health. Human skeletons from two Yangshao sites, Jiangzhai and Shijia, representing two subsequent phases of the culture, and Kangjia site of Longshan from Shaanxi Province comprised the bulk of the materials. A sample from the later dynastic period of Western Zhou is used to assess, whether the changes in diet and health seen during Longshan were temporary or persisted. Substantial differences in dental wear rate and oral pathology between the two geographically close Yangshao sites suggest that different subsistence strategies were developing in an attempt to adapt to cooler and more variable climate. Relative to Yangshao, the latter Longshan skeletons demonstrated reduction of dental wear, high frequency of caries and antemortem tooth loss, and a low calculus accretion probably due to a greater reliance on millet and transition to processed millet as a weaning diet during Longshan time. These changes were accompanied by declining community health. The Longshan pattern of health indicators was also observed in the Western Zhou sample, except that oral pathology was more similar to that of Yangshao. Therefore poor health during the dynastic period should be attributed to increased population density and possibly lower calorie intake, rather than to the changes in food composition relative to that of Yangshao.
Date Created: 10/19/2003
Department: Department of Anthropology
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