A regional archaeology of the Guan River Valley, Henan, China
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This study examines the history of settlement patterns, land use practices, sociopolitical structure, and the inter-regional integration in the Guan Valley, Henan, China from 4000 B.C. to the modern period (A.D.1911). The Guan Valley is an environmentally diverse region and culturally peripheral to three cultural core areas: the Central Plain, the Yangtze River region, and the Guanzhong Basin. This regional full-coverage survey located 96 sites in 135 km2 in the middle Guan Valley. The earliest occupation dated to the Middle Yangshao period (4000-3500 B.C.). In the Late Yangshao (3500-2900 B.C.), occupations increased rapidly and expanded to the upper reach and tributaries of the Guan River. After an occupational rock bottom during the early states period (1900-771 B.C.), occupations recovered rapidly and reached a new level of organization complexity in the Eastern Zhou (770-221 B.C.). This pattern continued into the Qinhan period (220 B.C.-A.D. 220), when hamlets increased in number and expanded into hilly areas. After Qinhan, settlements decreased in number and hierarchy simplified. A Land use analysis explores several environmental conditions associated with settlement locations. Compared to historic occupations (after 1900 B.C.), prehistoric settlements were more affected by some environmental variables, for example, flood risks. In the historic period, there was a growing trend towards the exploitation of hilly areas. Regional primacy characterized settlement systems of most periods. The formation and maintenance of the primate center went through several changes-ceremonial center during Late Yangshao, gateway community during Longshan (2900-1900 B.C.), and administrative center since the Eastern Zhou. The changing function of the main central place was an adaptive response to inter-regional integration between the valley and the surrounding cultural core areas. The ceremonial focus of the Late Yangshao sociopolitical system of the Guan Valley was shared inter-regionally. In the Longshan period, the “Qujialing Invasion” intensified long-distance trade with the Yangtze River region. In the historic period, the valley was gradually integrated into states and empires through military, administrative, and economic measures. The Guan Valley now provides a case study to comparing the developmental trajectories of culturally peripheral and environmentally diverse regions, enriching our understanding of processual complexity in Chinese civilization.