Intensive acorn processing in the early Holocene of southern China
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There is increasing evidence that the early rice farming communities of southern China emerged from societies heavily dependent on acorns. Recent archaeological investigations have recovered large quantities of acorn remains from multiple archaeological sites (10,000–6000 cal. BP) in the Lower Yangtze River Valley, suggesting that acorns were a staple food for preagricultural societies. However, most previous studies have focused on taxonomical identification, leaving us a poor understanding of acorn processing technology. This research addresses this shortcoming by conducting a systematic microbotanical residue analysis (starch and phytolith) of pottery and grinding stones from the Shangshan culture (10,000–8200 cal. BP). The results show that the artifacts analyzed were predominantly used for processing acorns, and to a lesser extent, USOs and cereals. Combining the microbotanical data and an ethnographic study, we reconstruct a 10,000-year-old acorn processing technology. We suggest that intensive acorn processing provided an impetus for the increased production of pottery and grinding stones in early Holocene China.