Cooperative Project--Chengdu Plain Archaeological Survey: Emerging Complexity and the Archaeology of Landscape
Since completing his Ph.D., Rowan Flad have been involved in a new survey project focused on the beginnings of sedentary society and the emergence of social complexity in the Chengdu Plain of Sichuan Province. This survey involves a novel use of multiple survey strategies in concert in order to address the complex environment of the Chengdu Plain. Due to the problems posed by paddy-field rice agriculture and poor ground visibility we combine several different procedures (field-walking, auger survey, remote sensing, and geomorphology) to reconstruct the ancient landscape. The project has brought together scholars from several Chinese institutions (Peking University; Chengdu City Institute of Archaeology; and the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), several American Institutions (Harvard; UCLA; Washington University in St. Louis) and others (National Taiwan University; University College of London). He has been responsible for coordinating research in the field and directing the auger survey and have been principally in charge of the overall management of data from the project in an integrated GIS (Geographical Information System) database.
The project is focused on several critical issues. First, They wish to examine whether the complex polities that emerged at the end of the second millennium BC in the Sichuan Basin (as evidenced by the famous site of Sanxingdui) were indigenous developments in the region or the result of imposition from the outside. The nature of developing complexity in the region has significant implications for the big picture of how “civilization” emerged in East Asia. Second, They are interested in the process by which rice agriculture spread to regions outside its initial core. The Sichuan Basin is a perfect example of the secondary adoption of agriculture where they can explore the relationship between changes in subsistence and emerging complexity.
Two articles on the two preliminary seasons of this project have been published in Nanfang minzu kaogu [Southern Archaeology and Ethnology], Vol. 6. Rowan Flad has presented their methodologies and preliminary results widely at guest lectures at several American universities and international conferences. The project has been funded by support from the American Philosophical Society, the Harvard University Asia Center, the American School of Prehistoric Research, the Department of Anthropology at Harvard, the Luce Foundation and the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. They concluded field research in 2011 and are currently working on a bilingual report of the project results.
On Tuesday, February 21st, 4:15PM, 2012, Sponsored by the Fairbank Center, Director’s Seminar, Rowan Flad will give a lecture about this subject in CGIS South Building, Belfer Case Study Room (S020), Harvard University.