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New data suggest that dramatic environmental change in the Western Loess Plateau of China corresponded with substantial changes in human demography ca. 4000 cal yr B.P. These data demonstrate that a rapid climatic transition from wet to dry led to an ecologically devastated period between 4090 and 3600 cal yr B.P. The sudden reduction in the number of archaeological sites during this period, namely a reduction in the total number of sites and a contraction of the areal distribution of sites, points to declining agricultural productivity associated with widespread aridification beginning at 4000 cal yr B.P.
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