Agricultural terraces are a manifestation of man's ability to transform nature during the past thousands of years, and they have played an important role in the development of human society. The Ganjia Basin in Xiahe County, Gansu Province, is located in the northeastern Tibetan Plateau. A large area of banded landscape is distributed on the hills and piedmonts in the Ganjia Basin, which is claimed to be composed of large-scale abandoned ancient terraces. Based on fieldwork, satellite remote sensing data and GIS analysis in the present study, we found that the ancient terraces cover an area of 42.2 km2 and are mainly distributed on slopes between 2936 and 3326 m a.m.s.l. (meters above mean sea level) on both sides of the Yangqu River and its tributaries in the basin. Additionally, we analyzed various environmental proxies, including magnetic susceptibility (MS), grain size, the contents of total organic carbon (nitrogen) (TOC, TN), and palynological assemblages, from three representative sections of ancient agricultural terraces (GJAT-1, GJAT-1, and GJAT-3), and compared them with the MS values and clay content of a natural profile with accurate chronological control in the Ganjia Basin. The results indicate that the terraces are reclaimed paleosols dating to the Late Holocene (3000 kyr BP), and that the homogeneous MS values of the top 25-35 cm of the terrace profiles differ from those of the natural soil section, which confirms the existence of a cultivation layer in the terraces. However, the increases in the contents of TOC and TN above the cultivated layer, and the fact that the trend of MS in the terrace profile is broadly in line with the natural profile, indicate that the terraces were only used for a short interval and have been abandoned for a relatively long time. Combined with historical documentary evidence, we infer that the ancient Xiahe agricultural terraces were constructed as a result of the "Gongjianshou (bowman) militia farming" policy during the Northern Song China (1074-1125 CE). Climate reconstructions for the Northern Hemisphere and northern China demonstrate that the temperature was higher and that the precipitation increased during this interval, providing a favorable environment for agricultural production. Overall, our results provide a typical example of societal adaptation to climate change in the past.