Social and environmental factors influencing dietary choices among Dawenkou culture sites, Late Neolithic China

Yu Dong, Songtao Chen, Stanley H. Ambrose, Anne Underhill, Xue Ling, Mingkui Gao, Zhenguang Li, Fengshi Luan, Guiyun Jin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Archaeological cultures are commonly defined by typologies established from ceramic assemblages at sites dated to a relatively restricted timeframe and located in specific geographic regions. It is often assumed that cultural traditions, social organizations, and other aspects of lifeways were similar throughout the established cultural areas. However, variations in pottery assemblages, burial practices, house construction techniques, and subsistence strategies are observed among late Neolithic Dawenkou culture sites in China. This study uses stable isotopic, archaeobotanical, and archaeozoological analysis to investigate variation in diet at middle and late Dawenkou sites. We provide new isotopic data for two sites and a comparison of results for all studies to date for the Dawenkou culture area. There is significant synchronic and diachronic variation, both among and within sites, during the middle and late Dawenkou period. There are multiple potential explanations for this variability including constraints from environmental factors such as temperature, precipitation, local geomorphology, and social factors such as gender, social status, and ethnicity. This study demonstrates that closer examination of Dawenkou culture sites using multiple approaches provides a more nuanced understanding of variation in communities that deserve further analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-284
Number of pages14
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • China
  • Neolithic
  • agriculture
  • food
  • identity
  • stable isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Archaeology
  • Ecology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Palaeontology


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