Commentary: A Critical Review of Environmental Archaeology in Northeast China


Environmental archaeology in northeastern China has reached a critical period of development, although the state of progress varies across this large geographical region. The lack of collaboration between archaeologists and associated scientists remains the main obstacle in current research. Almost exclusively conducted by dedicated scientists, research in the field is often ignored by archaeologists because it is not presented within an archaeological context. Furthermore, the research is not of a high spatial and temporal resolution: there is the tendency to make broad generalizations about large regions over long periods of time and to disregard areas that do not fit their general climatic models. Another problem is the misguided borrowing of concepts developed in other parts of the world, for example, the Holocene Climate Optimum (HCO), which is well defined in prehistoric Europe but is still being developed in China. Many researchers have simply applied this term to the same period in China and assumed that the climate around that period resembled that of prehistoric Europe, despite the fact that this is currently unsupported by local palaeo-environmental evidence. Other obstacles to the development of environmental archaeology include deterministic approaches and oversimplistic research procedures. To address these problems, a conversion of qualitative data to quantitative data on temperature and precipitation is required. Future research should be conducted by teams of scientists and archaeologists working collaboratively on both natural and archaeological deposits, in order to establish a strong foundation for further environmental reconstruction research.