Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2017

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Archaeological research on food production systems has focused extensively on agricultural origins and domestication. Agricultural intensification, i.e., the process from the earliest domestication and cultivation of limited crops to the intensive agriculture practiced by early states, is regrettably less understood. This dissertation focuses two fundamental issues concerning agricultural intensification: how agriculture was intensified over time, and why agricultural was intensified. I first provide an overview of the longue durée interactions between human activities (particularly farming) and environment in early China. Within this broader context, I use archaeological data from excavations and geoarchaeology-based, multi-disciplinary analysis to study these two questions at at the Sanyangzhuang and Anshang sites in the Central Plain of. For the question of “how”, this case study, in contrast to Boserup’s unilinear fallow-shortening pathway, demonstrates a more complicated, multi-linear pathway of agricultural intensification, which suggests that there are extensive interactions and feedbacks among key production strategies, i.e., field management practices, cultivated crops, and farming implements. For the question of “why”, this case study proposes an environment-induced multi-factor model to explain the driving forces of agricultural intensification. The model suggests that environmental changes (usually deterioration) increases risks of crop failure and famine, disrupts the equilibrium of the social system and induces the initial agricultural intensification. This environmental pressure is aggravated by social/cultural factors such as population growth, transformation of land ownership, reform of taxation, and results in the further development of agricultural intensification.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Tristram R. Kidder

Committee Members

Alexander S. Bradley, Michael D. Frachetti, Xinyi Liu, Fiona B. Marshall,


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