Xiaolin Ren (Chinese Academy of Sciences)

1 December – 1PM UK

Incipient urbanism, environmental consequences, and social resilience in the Central Plains of China 

Archaeological assessment of the environmental impact of early cities provides a baseline for thinking about the complex challenges of contemporary urban living. There are not much archaeological studies on the relationship of cities and their environments, and the majority of work on this topic placed the emphasis on low-density urban systems sustained by agricultural systems that were typical to Mesoamerica or Southeast Asia. In contrast, early Chinese cities are characterized by high-density settlements supported by intensive land use practices. This talk discusses urban sustainability in the past through research at Bronze Age sites in the Central Plains of China. By exploring the relationship between incipient urbanism and environmental conditions, we test the “urban advantage” and “urban penalty” models within a densely-populated and intensive agricultural land-use system. This work further contributes to the broader scholarly endeavour of discerning what makes societies sustainable or vulnerable in the face of environmental challenges.