Published: 14 August 2023
The earliest ceramic drainage system unearthed at the Pingliangtai site on the Central Plains of China represents an unprecedented social and environmental manipulation as societies faced surging environmental crises in the Late Holocene East Asian Monsoon region. Here we present results of excavation and a geoarchaeological survey of the water-management infrastructures and environment which reveal the operation and maintenance of a well-planned and regulated two-tiered drainage system. Rather than a ‘centralized hierarchy’, the drainage activities were mainly practised at household and communal levels, through which Pingliangtai society was drawn to more pragmatic aspects of social governance. Through their emphasis on spatial uniformity, cooperation in public affairs, and a series of technological innovations, water management at Pingliangtai gravitated to collective shared interest as the society responded [emphasis JAB] to recurrent environmental contingencies. Such a pragmatic focus on public affairs constituted a previously unrecognized, alternative pathway to the development of power structure and social governance on the Central Plains regimes in late Neolithic and later times.
OK, at least it wasn’t Boas that reported this, although it was “Nature” that published it. It always gives me the willies when one of our “High Impact Scientific Journals” ventures into archaeological anthropology – particularly political economic aspects thereof.
I confess to having not yet reviewed far beyond the abstract before posting it here in “The Happening World” because, well, whatever its contents, such a publication by Nature in the current geopolitical environment where “populism” is a dirty word, should be regarded as a significant “happening”.
“the society responded” is a key phrase in any evolutionary pressures toward cooperation imposed by environmental stressors – pressures that can and do result in specialization. The most extreme case in point is the “environmental stressor” imposed on “the selfish genes” by their prospects to participate in a fair meiotic lottery while turning from undifferentiated stem cells into “sterile worker cells” cooperating to build a sexual organism.