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Department of Archaeology


Ms Mocen Li, BA MA

Contact Ms Mocen Li

Research Topic

Health patterns among farming populations in Northern China: an evolutionary perspective from the origin of agriculture to modern Chinese society


In the history of the human species, patterns of health and disease have been radically changed by two sociocultural transitions: the Neolithic and Industrial Revolutions. The Neolithic Revolution 10,000 years ago, or when people made the transition from hunting and gathering to an agricultural subsistence, led to both demographic expansion and evolution of more complex human societies around the globe.

Today, agriculture remains central to lives of people across the world. It has been estimated that 1.3 billion people, or 19 percent of the world’s population, were directly engaged in farming in 2012. However, palaeopathological data show that, in spite of population growth and the development of complex societies, the transition to agriculture often had an adverse impact on human health. Such a paradox raises a series of questions relevant to the current research:

1. How can the health deterioration be explained when there was successful population growth and social development?

2. How did human population adapt to the disadvantages of an agricultural subsistence?

3. Is agriculture still impacting the health of living populations?

4. If so, how might existing health challenges be addressed to improve people’s well-being?

To answer these questions, this research will employ palaeopathological approach and current public health data to examine the patterns of health and disease related to agriculture in Northern China. The palaeopathological data will be collected from representative skeletal individuals from the origin of agriculture to ancient Chinese Empire. Health consequences, including malnutrition and infectious diseases, will be recorded and analysed. A comparative analysis between ancient agricultural population and modern Chinese will be conducted to evaluate the changes in health and disease from an evolutionary perspective. The results from this research will facilitate understanding human adaption to sociocultural changes from the past to present.

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