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The Neolithic of Southeast China: Cultural Transformation and Regional Interaction o ...

Chapter 1:  Introduction
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The Neolithic of Southeast China:

Chapter One

Introduction

The patterns and processes involved in the cultural changes in southeast China during the Neolithic period (ca. 3500–6500 B.P) have broad impli­cations for understanding many important issues in the prehistory of mainland China, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, as well as the Pacific. The formation process of southeast China‘s Neolithic cultural traditions holds key evidence for examining the impacts of agricultural expansions, population dispersals, maritime adaptation, and seafaring upon human society in prehistoric China. Southeast China has also been increasingly recognized as critical for investigating the origins of the Austronesian Cultures as well as the Austronesian people (Bellwood, 2005, 2006a, 2006b; also see Chapter Four). Yet unfortunately our knowledge of the Neolithic of this strategic area is among the most limited ones in both Chinese and Pacific archaeology. Thus, the primary goal of this archaeological investigation is to put forward new evidence for a better understanding of the Neolithic of southeast China. By focusing on studies of chronology, subsistence pattern and regional interaction spheres, I establish a contextual framework to interpret the mechanism of cultural and social transformation. In accordance with the increasing international attention on the search for the homeland of Austronesian speakers, the implications of the Neolithic cultural changes of southeast China for understanding the early expansion of the Proto-Austronesians are addressed.