Relative sea level rise, site distributions, and Neolithic settlement in the early to middle Holocene, Jiangsu Province, China

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Holocene, Volume 28, Issue 3, p.354-362 (2018)


This study details the chronology and the human consequences of early- to mid-Holocene sea level rise and the related marine transgression and regression along the east coast of China. We use archaeological and environmental data to show that there was a significant marine transgressive event that began before 9000 cal. BP. This event reached its maximum extent inland and had the greatest impact on the Jiangsu region between 9000 and 8000 cal. BP. Because of this transgression, most of the low-lying parts of modern Jiangsu Province were either covered by seawater or were converted to a wetland environment that was unsuitable for long-term human settlements until ca. 7000 cal. BP. Between 7000 and 6000 cal. BP, the sea retreated and new lands became available for colonization. Humans rapidly moved into the newly emerged lands, which were ecologically rich with diverse and abundant plants, animals, fish, and shellfish. Evidence that human settlement were earliest in the northwest and generally expanded south and east. The Taihu Plain was rapidly occupied, but because of variations in topography, hydrology, and sea level changes, the Lixiahe Plain remained a coastal lagoon until 6000-5500 cal. BP.