Interregional contacts and geographic preconditions in the prehistoric Liangshan region, Southwest China

Anke Marion Hein
Quaternary International, 2013 pp. 1--20

The Liangshan region is located at the intersection of several cultural-geographic regions in Southwest China; it is dominated by the towering Hengduan Mountains, whose northesouth oriented ridges channeled the early exchange along China’s western frontier. The archaeological material from this region therefore provides an ideal case study for research on mechanisms of cultural contact and their environmental preconditions. This paper unlocks the research potential of the Liangshan region by first providing an overview of local prehistoric cultural developments and their geographic preconditions, focusing on signs of outside contacts and their possible origin; in a second step, it suggests routes and types of contact and their motivations. I argue that questions of cultural identity, inter-group contact, and humaneenvironment interaction cannot be treated separately but have to be considered in combination. At the same time, the case at hand shows that the environment is not just a limiting or determining factor: even marginal environments can be used in a variety of ways and do not necessarily lead to conflict among neighboring populations. I therefore argue that in the emergence of contact networks and acceptance of foreign traits, cultural decisions are just as important as and sometimes even more important than geographic preconditions.