Finding Greener Pastures?: Environmental change, prehistoric herding, and the spread of sheep pastoralism to the Ordos Region, Neolithic Northern China.

Owlett, Tricia E, Stanford University, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures


Prior archaeological research in Northern China has shown that climatic conditions during the Late Neolithic period may have significantly grown colder and drier through time. This paper integrates paleoclimatic and archaeological data from the Shimao site in Shaanxi Province, Northern China to understand how climate change might have affected animal husbandry practices within this region. I will explore some of the possible adaptive responses that herders made to this new environment that likely affected the availability of fodder for animals. I suggest that the site’s inhabitants pursued a subsistence regime that could maximize the available resources to produce a reliable harvest, while making possible the incorporation of new animal husbandry practices into household production schemes.  Domesticated sheep may have been especially important as a means to produce a reliable food source in the contexts of environmental change.