ref: Before Farming 2008/4 article 1

Stone artefacts and recent research in the archaeology of mainland Southeast Asian hunter-gatherers

Ben Marwick
Department of Anthropology, Campus Box 353100, University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195-3100 USA

Keywords: Stone artefacts, Thailand, Pleistocene, Holocene, behavioural ecology


In recent decades the study of stone artefact technology has made many technical advances and substantial contributions to the archaeology of many regions. Until recently, mainland southeast Asian has benefited little from these advances, in part because of the paucity of evidence and in part because of prevailing conceptual frameworks that were poorly suited to the available evidence. The Middle Pleistocene record has a very sparse lithic record suggestive of little more than the presence of hominins on the landscape. The Late and Terminal Pleistocene is better represented and recent work on stone artefact assemblages has demonstrated that the assemblages document important behavioural variation that challenges previous notions of Pleistocene hunter-gatherers in mainland Southeast Asia. Holocene assemblages, especially from Luang Prabang and the Salween River areas, hold promise for addressing questions about the transition to agriculture, currently a poorly understood process in mainland Southeast Asia.

ref: Before Farming 2008/4 article 2

The transition to farming in northeast China: a model and application

Peter Wei Ming Jia
Department of Archaeology, School of Philosophical and historical Inquiry
University of Sydney, NSW 2006 Australia

Keywords: Transition to farming, northeast China, availability model, tool-complex analysis


This paper assesses the applicability of the ‘availability model’ to the transition from hunting and gathering to farming in northeast China. It evaluates the model from the perspective of an integrated archaeological framework that combines ‘tool-complex analysis’ with available faunal and floral data from selected early to mid-Holocene sites that span the transition. Tool-complex analysis is an empirical study that is based on the (possible) connection between the types of tools used and the economies of prehistoric societies. The evaluation process concludes that a modified non-lineal version of the availability model might more accurately describe the transition process in this region, and a ‘three trends model’ is offered as a potential alternative.

ref: Before Farming 2008/4 article 5

Distinguishing environmental and density-dependent aspects of adaptation

Amber L Johnson
Department of Society and Environment, Truman State University
100 E Normal St, Kirksville, Missouri, USA

Keywords: Mid-holocene, vegetation class, hunter-gatherer adaptation, population density, climate change


The Middle Holocene was a period in which significant climate change and rapidly increasing population density are often both associated with dramatic changes in human subsistence and social organisation. Methodologically, it is interesting to ask: how can archaeologists learn to distinguish environmentally- and demographically-conditioned aspects of change in such strategies? Limiting the scope of the study to the Americas partially controls variation in the timing of initial occupation, although both the scale and impact of climate change vary widely. This provides a laboratory for testing expectations of analytical models which allow environmental and demographic variables to change independently. This exploration is founded on Binford’s (2001) environmental and hunter-gatherer frames of reference.


© Western Academic & Specialist Press Ltd 2009