Institute of Archaeology


Rita Dal Martello

Agricultural trajectories in Southwest China: a comparative analysis on archaeobotanical remains from Neolithic Yunnan

Rita Dal Martello

Email: r.dalmartello.15@ucl.ac.uk
Section: Archaeological Sciences



Agricultural trajectories in Southwest China: a comparative analysis on archaeobotanical remains from Neolithic Yunnan

The beginning of agriculture in Yunnan, Southwest China, has been often associated with a southward population movement from Central China, and it has been further linked with the Austroasiatic language dispersal to Southeast Asia. However, due to the scarcity of archaeological investigation in the area, the nature of the farming food system in Yunnan and the early contacts with the neighbouring regions, such as Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos, eastern India, and adjacent China, has yet to be investigated in depth. Drawing from plant remains and artefacts (esp. those associated with cooking) from early sites in Yunnan, dated between the 3rd and 1st millennium BC, this research investigates the origin and development of early agricultural practices in Southwest China. What was the basis of early agriculture in the area? To what extent can this be derived entirely from immigrant farmers, or did adoption by local forager populations play a role? With regards to rice, what was the ecology of rice cultivation? Did this differ either from source regions in the Yangtze valley or from the early systems in Southeast Asia, which have sometimes been suggested to have origins in Yunnan?

During these millennia not only did an agricultural lifestyle become established, but we also see the appearance and flourishing of the Dian Bronze Age polity. The Dian polity was an important early historic polity that had contacts with both the Early Chinese States in the Central Plains, and the broader Southeast Asian civilisations. My research therefore provides an important archaeological framework for the understanding of the cultural and societal development of late Prehistoric and Early Historic Yunnan, and its connections with the surrounding regions.




    • BA, Chinese Studies, Ca' Foscari University of Venice, 2012
    • MA, Chinese Neolithic Archaeology, Peking University, 2015

    R. Dal Martello, et al. "Early Agriculture at the crossroads of China and Southeast Asia: archaeobotanical evidence and radiocarbon dates from Baiyangcun, Yunnan". Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 20 (2018) 711-721.

    Conference papers

    "Rice mixed economies in Southwest China: ecological insights". Current Frontiers in the Archaeobotany of Rice International Workshop, Beijing, 3-6 August 2018

    "Recent developments on the spread of agriculture to Southwest China: a comparative analysis of archaeobotanical, remains, ecology and climate in Yunnan". SEAA 8th Worldwide Conference, Nanjing, 8-11 June 2018.

    "How Agriculture Practices adapted to diverse Environments? A Case Study from Southwest China". Poster. AEA Autumn Conference, Edinburgh, 1-3 December 2017.

    "Archaeobotanical Results from Baiyangcun site, Yunnan: exploring agricultural practices in Southwest China", SEAA 7th Worldwide Conference, Cambridge-Boston, 8-12 June 2016.

    "Rethinking Qijia Burial Practice", SAA 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, 15-19 April 2015.