Institute of Archaeology


The Ecological Impact of Longshan Urbanisation: Perspectives from Anthracology

08 February 2024, 6:00 pm–7:00 pm

Seminar poster showing a green landscape with a river flowing through it and b&w microscopic images superimposed on the right side of the image. Text (in green, white, yellow) gives details of the seminar title, speaker and location

Marvin Demicoli (Museum of London Archaeology, MOLA) will give an ICCHA China Night research seminar at the UCL Institute of Archaeology on 8 February.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







International Centre for Chinese Heritage and Archaeology (ICCHA)


UCL Institute of Archaeology
31-34 Gordon Square
United Kingdom

This is a hybrid event hosted by the International Centre for Chinese Heritage and Archaeology (ICCHA), which will take place in Room 612, 6th floor of the UCL Institute of Archaeology, and also online via Zoom. Registration for the Zoom event is via the booking link above. This seminar is free and open to all. All welcome! 


Anthracology, the analysis of wood-charcoal, is an exciting and advancing field in Chinese archaeology. Wood charcoal, a common ecofact on archaeological sites, provides crucial insights into the past woodland vegetation, paleoecology, wood uses, and how these change over time. In this talk, we will delve into anthracological analyses conducted on archaeological charcoal from various sites in north-central China.

The lecture will focus on three regions: Bicun and sites in the Jinxi-Yufenhe area in north Shanxi Province, Zhoujiazhuang in the Yuncheng basin in south Shanxi Province, and Pingliangtai and Haojiatai in Henan Province. These sites primarily date back to the Late Longshan Neolithic period (around 2500-1900 BCE), a time marked by a surge in site and population densities, as well as the rise of China's first large urban centres.  The Late Longshan charcoal samples show differences across the regions and time. The findings suggest a wetter and warmer climate than the present in both regions and the possibility of arboriculture practices. However, the observed changes in arboreal vegetation cannot be solely attributed to climate, as deforestation and forest regeneration may also be factors. These could have been a consequence of the Late Longshan urbanization.  By shedding light on the possible ecological footprint of early urbanization during the Longshan Neolithic period, this research emphasizes the relevance of understanding how human activities have influenced landscapes in the past. Particularly in light of present-day anthropic pressures on the natural environment, this lecture provides crucial insights into the pre-historical interaction between humans and their surroundings.

About the Speaker

Dr Marvin Demicoli is an archaeobotanist and anthracologist at the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), where he also leads the Sustainability, Ecology and Environments Research Group. Dr Demicoli obtained his PhD in Chinese wood charcoal analysis from the University of Liverpool, has an MSc in Environmental Archaeology from UCL, and a BA and an MA in archaeology from the University of Malta. He has broad international experience in archaeology projects across Europe and Asia. Dr Demicoli uses his specialisation in microscopic wood anatomy to reconstruct past woodlands and the effects humans had on the environment throughout time.  Apart from answering archaeological questions about past climate change, palaeoecology, and vegetation history, Dr Demicoli is also passionate about finding ways to use archaeological knowledge to help tackle modern issues of climate change, biodiversity loss, and sustainable woodland management. 

Future seminars - save the dates

  • Thursday 29 February 2024: Dr Siran Liu (USTB) on "The Exploration of Hypogene Copper Ore and the Rise of Shang Bronze Industry"
  • Wednesday 20 March 2024: Prof Michael Rowlands (UCL) & Prof Harriet Evans (University of Westminster) on "Grassroots Values - Localising Cultural Heritage in China"