Mana Hayashi

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Washington U., St. Louis

Grant number

Gr. 9733

Approve Date

October 23, 2018

Project Title

Hayashi, Mana, Washington U., St. Louis, MO - To aid research on 'Late Pleistocene Starchy Plant Uses in Northern China: A Nihewan Case Study,' supervised by Dr. Xinyi Liu

Preliminary abstract: Recent archaeological evidence from the Late Pleistocene (LP) in North China is stirring up the debate on how early modern humans settled in the northerly latitudes of eastern Eurasia. Much of what we know about LP human subsistence has focused on animal products, in part because paleoethnobotanical data are rare in the Pleistocene. Ethnographic research on hunter-gatherer societies and recent paleoethnobotanical evidence suggest that LP communities were likely eating tuber and root crops, botanically known as vegetative storage organs (VSOs). However, the timing and circumstances in which VSOs became a significant food resource remain unclear. To weigh into the existing debate on the significance of animal protein vs. plant starch consumption in the LP, I will conduct a diachronic study of VSOs in the Nihewan Basin in North China. VSOs are often found in the form of fragmented parenchymous remains, yet are rarely taxonomically identified. In Nihewan, I will collect and analyze parenchymous remains from three sites, each representing a transitional time period: (1) the Middle Pleistocene-LP transition, (2) late MIS 3, and (3) the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. I will then conduct taxonomic analysis of the parenchymous remains and characterize their cell structures under a scanning electron microscope to track changes in VSO resources and food processing methods through time. This investigation on early uses of VSOs in LP North China will contribute new lines of evidence to long-standing theoretical debates on modernity in LP human communities, as well as complement recent ethnographic efforts that take a less agrocentric approach to human-plant entanglements in the Holocene.