The authors present new research on social and economic developments in southern China in the Early Holocene, ninth to fifth millennia BC. The ‘Neolithic package’ doesn't really work for this fascinating chapter of the human experience, where pottery, social aggregation, animal domestication and rice cultivation all arrive at different places and times. The authors define the role of the ‘pottery-using foragers’, sophisticated hunter-gatherers who left shell or fish middens in caves and dunes. These colonising non-farmers shared numerous cultural attributes with rice cultivators on the Yangtze, their parallel contemporaries over more than 5000 years. Some agriculturalists became hunter-foragers in turn when they expanded onto less fertile soils. No simple linear transition then, but the practice of ingenious strategies, adaptations and links in a big varied land.