The relationship between settlements distribution and environmental changes from the Neolithic to Shang-Zhou periods in north Shandong Province

  • 1. Laboratory for Earth Surface Process, Ministry of Education, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China;
    2. College of Marine Sciences, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing 210044, China;
    3. Shandong Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Jinan 250012, China;
    4. School of Archaeology and Museology, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China

Received date: 2012-10-09

  Revised date: 2013-01-06

  Online published: 2013-04-20

Supported by

Major Program of National Social Science Foundation of China, No.11&ZD183; Youth Fund of National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.40901012; National Key Technology R&D Program of China, No.2013BAK08B02; National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41171006; No.41271228


Using ArcGIS spatial analyst tools, this study analyzes the spatial and temporal distribution of ancient archaeological sites of six periods from the Neolithic Age to the Shang and Zhou dynasties in northern Shandong province. In addition, combined with the experimental analysis of Shuangwangcheng (SWC) profiles and previous studies, the relationship between site distribution and environmental factors is discussed. The results show that during the period of 8000-5000 aBP, the climate was warm and humid and the sea level was relatively high; therefore, archaeological settlements were mainly distributed on diluvial tablelands and alluvial plain with the altitude ranging from 20 m to 300 m and the slope lower than 2°. However, there were few archaeological sites distributed in the western low-lying plain as the result of frequent flooding events at this stage. After 5000 aBP, the cooling and drying climate and the lowering sea-level prompted the coastward expansion of settlements. Meanwhile, as a result of climatic drying and marine recession, environmental conditions in the western low-lying plain were also ameliorated, which attracted extensive human exploitation. The study area of this period was characterized by the rapid development of prehistoric culture, the intensified social stratification and the emergence of early city-states. However, around 4000 aBP, the abrupt change of climate and the increase in the frequency and intensity of flooding events severely disrupted human activities, which might be the main reason for the decline of the Yueshi culture. During the Shang and Zhou dynasties, the climatic conditions tended to be stable and assumed a mild-dry condition, which promoted the development of the culture to be prosperous again. The previous situation of sparse human settlements due to the lack of freshwater and being unfitted for sedentary agriculture improved during the Shang and Zhou dynasties in northern coastal wetlands. Local residents effectively adapted themselves to the harsh environmental conditions by producing sea-salt, which led to the rapid growth of ancient settlements.

Cite this article

GUO Yuanyuan, MO Duowen, MAO Longjiang, WANG Shougong, LI Shuicheng . The relationship between settlements distribution and environmental changes from the Neolithic to Shang-Zhou periods in north Shandong Province[J]. Acta Geographica Sinica, 2013 , 68(4) : 559 -570 . DOI: 10.11821/xb201304010


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