The 4.2 ka BP Event in northeastern China: a geospatial perspective
The Hunshandake Sandy Lands of northeastern China, currently a semiarid lightly vegetated region, were characterized by perennial lakes and forest stands in the early and middle Holocene. Well-developed dark grassland-type paleosols (mollisols) at the southern edge of the Hunshandake – OSL (optically stimulated luminescence)-dated to between 6.93±0.61 and 4.27±0.38 ka along with lacustrine sands at higher elevations that date to between 5.7±0.3 and 5.2±0.2 ka – and thick gray lacustrine sediments suggest a wetter climate. Between 4.2 and 3.8 ka, the region experienced extreme drying that was exacerbated by lake overflow drainage and sapping that depleted the groundwater table. The region supported a robust population, the Hongshan Culture, but was depopulated post 4.2 ka with migration likely to the Yellow River Valley where the Hongshan introduced their characteristic cultural elements to early Chinese civilization. Evidence for extreme and sudden environmental change in northeastern China, at and following the 4.2 ka BP Event and like that we document in the Hunshandake, is widespread. However, no comprehensive overview of this climatic episode exists. Here, we discuss the relevant events in northeastern China and capture them in a spatially explicit Geographic Information Systems database that can be used to analyze the timing and spatial pattern of climate and environmental change associated with the 4.2 ka BP Event. This approach could serve as a prototype for a global 4.2 ka BP Event database.