Rita Dal Martello (UCL) - 2016-17 Students

Contact, influence and dispersal. An analysis of agriculture and cooking practices in Neolithic Yunnan, and the diaspora of Upper Yangtze populations

The beginning of agriculture in Yunnan, Southwest China, has been often associated with a southward population movement from Sichuan, 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 Neolithic sites in Yunnan, this research investigates the origin and development of agriculture 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?

The project also aims to explore contrasts and similarities in cuisine tradition, and more generally material culture, with the neighbouring regions. Can we relate the arrival and establishment of agriculture to imported cooking traditions or can we detect local evolution in those traditions? How do this relate to those of Neolithic Southeast Asia?

Back to the top