Modeling constraints on the spread of agriculture to Southwest China with thermal niche models

Jade D'Alpoim Guedes, Ethan E. Butler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Understanding how, why and by what mechanisms agricultural practices, technologies and products spread out of their zones of original development is a central theme of archaeology. To date, very few studies have combined agro-ecological modeling with detailed analyses of archaeobotanical remains to outline the kinds of challenges that ancient humans faced as they moved crops into environments different from their original homeland of domestication. This paper employs ecological niche modeling to outline the constraints faced by ancient humans as they moved rice, millets and eventually wheat and barley into the mountainous region of Southwest China. In particular, we propose that moving rice into this region presented considerable challenges for its cultivators and we infer that its spread into this area was facilitated by breeding cold adapted varieties of rice or by combining its cultivation with that of millet. High altitude areas did not take up full-scale agriculture until the introduction of cold adapted western Eurasian domesticates such as wheat and barley. The temperature niche models reinforce the adoption of these regionally varied agricultural strategies and support the significance of domesticates other than rice for the spread of agriculture into Southwest China.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-41
Number of pages13
JournalQuaternary International
StatePublished - Oct 28 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful for the generous guidance they received from Prof. Peter Huybers while composing this manuscript. Prof. Huybers helped us substantially improve our methods and the overall of quality of this manuscript. Other individuals have given constructive feedback on this research: These include Richard Meadow, Rowan Flad, and Jane Baldwin who helped format part of the original analysis from which this study derived. D'Alpoim Guedes is also grateful to Erik Otorolla Castillo for numerous discussions and insight. Butler is grateful to Nathan Mueller and Marena Lin for reading an early draft of the manuscripts and providing useful insight and encouragement. D'Alpoim Guedes is grateful to her colleagues in China for providing access to the archaeobotanical materials that formed the basis of this study: particularly the Chengdu City Institute of Archaeology, The Sichuan Provincial Institute, Chen Jian, Jiang Ming and Jiang Zhanghua. The author is also grateful to Jin Hetian and to Xue Yining for their analysis of the Haimenkou material in their dissertations. D'Alpoim Guedes research was funded by ACLS and Henry Luce Foundation , and the Wenner-Gren Foundation (Gr# 8183 ). Ethan Butler was funded by the Packard Foundation . Both authors are also grateful to the comments provided by an anonymous reviewer that helped greatly improve this manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA.


  • Climate
  • Millet
  • Modeling
  • Rice
  • Southwest China
  • Spread of agriculture


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