Table of Content

    15 June 2021, Volume 40 Issue 03
    A Reading Guide from the Editor-in-chief
    GAO Xing
    2021, 40(03):  347-348. 
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    The progress and consideration on the study of site formation processes of early human occupation in China
    PEI Shuwen
    2021, 40(03):  349-362.  doi:10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2021.0044
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    Understanding site formation processes, an important approach being earliest used in the study on the field of archaeological geology or geoarchaeology, is crucial for interpreting the site integrity and adaptive behaviors adopted by early hominins. Two approaches include behavioral and natural scopes usually be adopted in the research field. Compare to the cultural parameters which human behavior is the main agency on the site formation processes, natural processes often affect the formation of Paleolithic sites and the spatial distribution of their archaeological remains. Natural agency usually includes flowing water which was recognized as a primary disturbing agent affecting artifact assemblages and their concentration.
    It is generally accepted that thousands of Paleolithic sites have been discovered in the past decades, which make China as the most important areas on studying early human evolution and behavioral patterns in the Old World. However, the approaches on the study of site formation processes have not got enough attention in Chinese paleoanthropological research for a long time. For example, lack of the crucial parameter adoption hinders the integrated research on the site formation processes. In the last ten years, the integration of site formation processes inquiry into Paleolithic studies has revolutionized the way archaeologists explain hominin behavior from material remains in Chinese Paleoanthropological research.
    This paper starts with the main sedimentary context of site distributed, which classify the sites into four depositional types such as: fluvio-lacustrine basin, karstic (cave, rock shelter and fissure) area, loess distribution area, and red clay distribution area. After explanation on the sedimentary features of different depositional context which sites buried, main research advancement was reviewed by the author. It should be noted that those research progress on the site formation processes in China are most focus on the natural processes especially evaluate the post-depositional degree of fluvial sedimentary processes impact on the formation of Paleolithic sites and on the integrity of stone artifact assemblages. The main reason why few studies focus on the behavioral agency affect the site formation can be attributed to the difficult of ecological works generalization, cultural features interpretation, and even the sophisticated theory mode selection. In a word, it is a necessity to enhance the crucial parameters selection from different sedimentary context, multi-discipline cooperation, international collaboration, also the new approaches such as GIS technique, archaeological remain refitted, spatial analysis, and experimental approach in the study on the site formation processes in the near future.

    Sediment characteristics and the formation processes of Paleolithic sites
    LI Hao, ZHANG Yuzhu, LI Yiyuan, LI Zhanyang, JIA Yana
    2021, 40(03):  363-377.  doi:10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2021.0047
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    Archaeological site formation is influenced by a range of geogenic, biogenic and anthropogenic processes. Geogenic processes play a fundamental role in influencing deposition, transformation, and post-deposition. Since natural factors have the potential to disrupt original archaeological contexts to varying degrees, it is crucial that researchers evaluate the influence of these processes prior to interpreting cultural materials. However, up until now, few studies in China have focused specifically on the influence of these natural factors in Paleolithic site formation. In this paper, we begin by providing a review of relevant site formation studies, followed by the identification of one key research subject—archaeological sediments, with properties relating to grain size, magnetic susceptibility, geochemical elements, mineral components and micromorphology. In addition, we also present two Paleolithic site case studies in which sedimentary indices have been employed to explore formation processes (i.e., at the Xuchang hominid site in Henan Province and at the Sandinggai site in Hunan Province). Finally, although the physical and chemical nature of sediments is valuable, we illustrate that landscape-scale geomorphological evolution coupled with excavated archaeological specimens should also be considered when reconstructing Paleolithic site formation. By doing so, and by using a combination of different analytical approaches and building systematic survey and sample-collecting protocols, we show the value of this approach in the study of the Chinese Paleolithic as we develop this multi-disciplinary approach in the region.

    Formation processes of the Banjingzi Paleolithic site in the Nihewan Basin
    REN Jincheng, WANG Fagang, LI Feng, YANG Qingjiang, CHEN Fuyou, GAO Xing
    2021, 40(03):  378-392.  doi:10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2021.0068
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    Banjingzi is an important open-air site with the age of 80-90 kaBP in the east margin of Nihewan basin in North China. Several excavations were conducted in 1984, 1986, 1988, 1990 and 1991. In 2015, a new excavation project was organized at this site by staff from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IVPP) and Institute of Hebei Provincial Cultural Relics. A total of 36 m2 was exposed, and three archaeological layers named layer 4, layer 5 and layer 6 were recognized from the profile, with the thickness of about 0.5 m, 1.6 m, 0.3 m, respectively. Layer 5 yielded the most abundant archaeological remains, including 2563 stone artifacts, 1028 animal bones and 716 natural pebbles (L≥50 mm), while together only about 110 pieces were recovered from other two layers.
    Based on materials collected in 2015 mentioned above, this paper presents a formation processes study of three archaeological layers recognized at this site by sedimentary and archaeological indicators (particularly the lithic assemblage composition, debitage size distribution, artifact conditions, orientation analysis and spatial patterning). Some important evidence and tentative conclusions could be drawn from our studies as below.
    Layer 5 was buried mainly in grey-yellow and grey-green silts, fine sands and clays, and several coarse sand belts and thin beds with a few pebbles encased in the deposit. Stone artifacts are basically unabraded and fresh, and display a coherent assemblage composition, with core and debitage accounting for 3.74%, 89.67% respectively. Artifacts both in horizontal and vertical space show dense accumulations, however, some minor linear and circle patterns can be recognized. The proportion of flaking debris smaller than 20 mm is about 58.7% less than that of the debitage size distribution experiment data obtained by authors of this paper. In addition, the archaeological materials show relatively obvious preferred orientation and inclination. Multiple lines of evidence above suggest that layer 5 has been preserved in a near-primary context and only disturbed by some moderate hydraulic forces occasionally, which mainly results in a large amount of smaller debitage washed out from the site, and has altered the original site configurations to some extent. The assemblage integrity of this layer is still relatively high as a whole and suitable for analyzing early hominin behaviors except the spatial analysis. Layer 4 was buried in fine sands with a few pebbles, while layer 6 was covered totally in sand-gravel. From the qualitative point of view, these two layers have been buried in secondary environments where artifacts were transported by water flows from other areas nearby.

    Progress and issues of chronological studies of human fossil sites in China
    GE Junyi, DENG Chenglong, SHAO Qingfeng, PEI Shuwen, TANG Ruiping, TU Hua, GAO Xing
    2021, 40(03):  393-410.  doi:10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2021.0061
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    The abundant ancient human remains in China provide important basic evidence and data for the study of the human origin, migration and evolution in East Asia or even the world. However, based on the compilation and statistical analysis of the published chronological data of more than 2000 Paleolithic and human fossil sites, we surprisingly found that most of these sites in China have never been dated, and less than 20% of them have carried out dating work. In addition, only about 10% of these sites have relatively reliable chronological data, but only with a small proportion have even carried out cross-dating with multiple dating methods. For more than 80 sites where human fossils were unearthed, the geochronometry data of more than a half still remain controversial. Here, we conducted a detailed analysis of the common complex syn-deposition and post-deposition reworking phenomena in some paleolithic and human fossil sites, especially the cave sites, and discussed the issues of the insufficient dating platform and geochronological researchers in China, the archaeological excavation process, and the chronological sampling and dating methodology, as well the possible ill effects on the chronological study of the Paleolithic and human fossils sites in China by them. Then, possible measures and suggestions for the future improvement in anthropological chronology research in China have been proposed. We hoped that these improving suggestions may attract more attention and deeper thinking for the perspectives of this research field.

    Chronology of lithic artifact sites and hominin distribution from Early to Middle Pleistocene in China
    LU Ying, SUN Xuefeng, WANG Shejiang, LU Huayu
    2021, 40(03):  411-426.  doi:10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2021.0038
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    Hominin fossils and Paleolithic sites of Early and Middle Pleistocene in China can provide information to understand hominin behavioral and living environments, while a chronological framework is the basis for analyzing hominin evolution, migration, and relationship with climate change during the Pleistocene era. In the past 20 years, hominin records in China steadily increased because of the Paleolithic excavation and the advancement of dating techniques, providing amplified materials for establishing age frameworks. This study analyzed 95 Early to Middle Pleistocene sites with numerical age estimates. The distribution patterns are shown under the loess-paleosol chronology constraints and a relatively continuous chronology of hominin activities is established from approximately 2 MaBP to the last interglacial period. These sites are mainly distributed in four regions of the Nihewan Basin and the adjacent Zhoukoudian, Qingling Mountains Range, and lower reaches of the Yangtze River and South China, where the maximum intensity of hominin activities occurred in order during the Early Pleistocene, Middle Pleistocene, and in the late part of Middle Pleistocene, respectively. Various excavated sites still lack chronological study or encounter issues in dating. Therefore, improvement of chronological study is necessary.

    ESR chronology of the Sankeshu Paleolithic site in the Nihewan Basin, North China
    JI Hao, LIU Chunru, SONG Weijuan, WEI Chuanyi, AO Hong, LI Jianping, YIN Gongming
    2021, 40(03):  427-435.  doi:10.16359/j.cnki.cn11-1963/q.2020.0081
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    The Nihewan Basin has attracted much attention owing to its well-developed late Mesozoic lacustrine strata and abundant Paleolithic sites and mammalian fossils. More than 100 Paleolithic sites have been found in the basin, which is known in academic circles as the “Olduvai canyon of the East”. Suitable dating materials are lacking; therefore, few independent ages are associated with Middle Pleistocene sites. Sankeshu Paleolithic site is one such example. This situation leaves the study of Paleolithic sites without a sound chronological framework. Electron spin resonance (ESR) dating technology is a dating technology developed in 1960s and has been widely recognized in geological circles. The ESR dating method has obvious advantages for the dating of the Middle Pleistocene sites, especially for the 400-780 kaBP which can not be dated by the Luminescence method. In this paper, we use quartz Ti-Li center ESR method to date four sediment samples at different depths of the Sankeshu site. The age of Sankeshu site is 599±70 kaBP, which provides a necessary chronological basis for understanding the survival and evolution of ancient humans in the Nihewan Basin.

    Human evolution of the Early and Middle Pleistocene in China and its relationship with climatic conditions
    YANG Shixia, PEI Shuwen, DENG Chenglong
    2021, 40(03):  436-453.  doi:10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2021.0040
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    With on-going implementation of palaeoanthropological surveys and excavations, in China the Early and Middle Pleistocene hominin record is accumulating steadily. Although the dates and cultural attributes of some sites are controversial, increasing information allows for the assessment of the effects of climate variability on archaeological site distributions and its influence on hominin behaviours. During the last one million years, there are two major changes in the climate regime, namely the Mid-Pleistocene climate transition(MPT) centered around 1.2-0.7 MaBP and the Mid-Brunhes event (MBE) around 0.4 MaBP. Here, we combine the fossil and archaeological data sets of the Early and Middle Pleistocene and subdivide them into four time frames, i.e., pre-MPT, MPT, pre-MBE and post-MBE. We examine archaeological site distributions across China to determine long-term geographic and behavioural effects on hominin populations before, during and after the two critical climatic events. Changes in the geographic distribution of hominins are demonstrated across the MPT, with significant shifts in the number of sites in high and low latitudes. The appearance of Large Cutting Tools, and new innovations in small tool industries, are key technological changes documented during the MPT. Across the MBE, the distribution of hominins is more extensive in both high and low latitudes. In contrast to earlier periods, post-MBE sites witness significant technological developments, such as the introduction of new stone tool reduction techniques in some sites of Yunnan and Guizhou in South China and improved tool designs at sites such as Dali, in North China. Across the MBE, a series of human fossil evidence indicate that several hominin species may have co-existed as increased morphological diversity is indicated. The Qinling Mountain Range and its surrounding area, at the boundary of North and South China, contained the densest and most continuous human occupations throughout the Early to Middle Pleistocene. Geographic and behavioural shifts in the hominin record challenge traditional views about the long-term, conservative nature of the biological and cultural evolution of hominins in Eastern Asia, and instead demonstrate dynamic responses of populations to ecosystem changes across the Early and Middle Pleistocene.

    Study on the relationship between environmental change and human evolution: Evidence from mammalian tooth enamel carbon and oxygen stable isotope analysis
    XU Zhe, MA Jiao, PEI Shuwen
    2021, 40(03):  454-468.  doi:10.16359/j.cnki.cn11-1963/q.2020.0037
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    The relationship among early human evolution, diffusion, technological development, and natural environment has always been the front and focus of academic attention. This paper reviews the research history, principle and sampling methods of enamel carbon and oxygen stable isotope analysis in the study of the relationship between environmental change and early human evolution. At the same time, it introduces the relevant research progress of different scholars using mammalian enamel carbon and oxygen stable isotope analysis method in exploring the relationship between early human evolution and environment. In this way, the authors also pointed out the case study of the environmental mechanism in the process of the transition from the early human Oldowan technology to Acheulean technology in East Africa. In addition, it should be pointed out that North China, as the most concentrated evidence of early human spread to and occupied in East Asia, display a variety of adaptation strategies. However, to explore the environmental mechanism of the early human evolution and adaptive behavior, there has been a lack of evidence of effective climate and environmental information from the site context. Therefore, using stable isotope analysis of mammalian enamel to explore the relationship between environmental change and early human technological evolution has a broad prospective in China. Furthermore, the potential of research materials, research areas and related scientific research are also proposed by the authors in the current paper.

    Chronological significance of the mammalian fauna from the Early Pleistocene Shanshenmiaozui site in Nihewan Basin, northern China
    TONG Haowen, ZHANG Bei, CHEN Xi, WANG Xiaomin, SUN Jijia
    2021, 40(03):  469-489.  doi:10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2021.0026
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    The fossils of the Nihewan (Nihowan) Fauna (senso stricto) or the Classic Nihewan Fauna derived from diversified sites around the Xiashagou Village located at the northern bank of the Sangganhe (Sangkanho) River. The Nihewan Fauna has been regarded as the type fauna of the Early Pleistocene epoch in northern China, whereas its approximate numerical age has been unresolved for quite a long time; the updated paleomagnetic age is 2.2-1.7 MaBP. Because of the cuts by river and tectonic faults, the stratigraphical correlations among different areas inside the Nihewan Basin remained difficult in the past, which can be definitely attributed to the insufficient fossil discoveries on the southern bank of the river. It’s lucky enough that during the past decade, a new site named Shanshenmiaozui (SSMZ) was recovered and excavated at the edge of the Cenjiawan Platform at the southern bank of the Sangganhe River; totally 9 excavations were conducted at the site, which resulted in the finding of 1526 pieces of mammalian fossils belonging to 25 species (including undetermined species) and 23 of which are the common members of the Nihewan Fauna. Therefore, the Shanshenmiaozui Fauna should share the same age with the Nihewan Fauna, i.e. earlier than 1.7 MaBP. The fossiliferous layer of SSMZ site is slightly higher than the cultural layer at the neighboring Xiaochangliang (XCL) Site, and the result of stratigraphical correlation shows that the Xiaochangliang Site should be older than 1.36 MaBP as currently thought; furthermore, the ages of other sites in the adjacent area also should be reconsidered. In the area around Xiaochangliang site, basal gravels are frequently appearing, but their vertical positions in the strata and the degrees of sorting and rounding are variable; the present authors think the basal gravels are important evidences for site correlations and crucial for paleoenvironmental reconstruction.

    Artiodactyla assemblages associated with Gigantopithecus blacki in China
    DONG Wei, BAI Weipeng
    2021, 40(03):  490-502.  doi:10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2021.0013
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    The first Gigantopithecus locality with precise geographic location and stratigraphic horizon in China was discovered in 1956 at the Black Cave (Dark Cave) in Daxin County, Guangxi. A series of such localities were uncovered successively since then, such as Liucheng and Wuming in Guangxi, Jianshi in Hubei, Bama in Guangxi, Wushan in Chongqing, Tiandong and Chongzuo in Guangxi, Bijie in Guizhou, Changjiang in Hainan. There are two localities in Tiandong, Mohui and Chuifeng Caves, a group of localities in Chongzhou, such as Sanhe, Boyue, Queque, Baikong, Yanliang and Hejiang Caves. All localities are situated south of the Yangtze River, range from 31°N to 19°N, from 105°E to 110°E. Among the mammalian faunas associated with Gigantopithecus, artiodactyls figure a large portion of fauna composition and total 30 taxa. They can be included into 5 families. The representative species are Hippopotamodon ultimus, Sus xiaozhu, S. peii, Muntiacus sp., Cervavitus fenqii, Cervus (Rusa) and Megalovis guangxiensis. The genera survived from the Neogene include Hippopotamodon, Sus, Dorcabune, Moschus, Muntiacus, Paracervulus, Metacervulus, Cervavitus, Gazella and Spirocerus. 17 species appeared in the Early Pleistocene, and 10 of them didn’t survive into the Middle Pleistocene. The genera appeared in the Early Pleistocene total 7, all belong to bovids. The bovids associated with Gigantopithecus indicate some grasslands and open lands among forest dominated environment, while the rest artiodactyls indicate broadleaf forests and shrub environments. The suids, sambar and buffalo imply the presence of scattered water areas. The omnivorous Gigantopithecus share a partial food chain with suids and should have certain food competition. Gigantopithecus share hardly food chain with such grazers as bovids, but share a small part of the chain with browsers such as tragulids, moschids and cervids. All artiodactyls are prey of carnivores that they share most of the risk of predation for Gigantopithecus. The associated artiodactyls were therefore favorable for the habitation and development of Gigantopithecus.

    Exploitation of animal bone fat by prehistoric human
    DAI Jingwen, ZHANG Shuangquan, ZHANG Yue
    2021, 40(03):  503-512.  doi:10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2021.0030
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    The exploitation of bone fat plays an important role in prehistoric human subsistence and it has been suggested that this process may involve two different human behaviors: bone marrow extraction and bone grease processing. Bone grease processing is a labor-intensitive activity which takes a lot of time and energy. The process of rendering the grease begins with smashing animal bones into small pieces. The spongy bone fragments are then placed into a container with water and bring to a simmer. The grease will rise to the surface as the bone fragments simmering and can be skimmed off with a dipper. However, compared to their western counterparts, archaeologists in China have hardly ever addressed the latter. In this paper, based on a thorough review of published papers in this field, we present the ways employed by scholars to identify the presence of this behavior and further discuss its archaeological implications in prehistoric themes, e.g., the intensity of human resource exploitation, mobility pattern and cooking technology.

    Preliminary application of the X-rays diffraction technique in experimental study of burnt bones
    HUANG Chao, ZHANG Shuangquan
    2021, 40(03):  513-525.  doi:10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2021.0042
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    Burnt bones are commonly found in archaeological sites and they are significant to a due understanding of the uses of fire by prehistoric humans. Previous studies have shown that the crystalline state of burnt bones will change differently under varying heating intensities. In order to understand whether the initial states of bones will have some effects on their crystalline states after burning, 56 sheep bones were burned in this study. We prepared three different initial states of bones (fleshed, defleshed and dry), and we further refined the temperature and time parameters of incineration. All samples were analyzed by using XRD. We find that the different initial states did have an effect on the crystalline states of bones after their burning, under certain temperature and time conditions. We also discussed the possibility of the application of this discovery in archaeological research.

    Definition, history, principles and aims of stable isotope bioarchaeology
    HU Yaowu
    2021, 40(03):  526-534.  doi:10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2021.0012
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    Since 1970s, stable isotope analyses of biomaterials from archaeological sites have played more and more important roles in archaeological and bioarchaeological fields and become one of important components of current archaeological research. However, international and domestic scholars have always considered it as an analytical technique and never thought it as an independent discipline. Given the importance of the isotopic analysis and the urgency of discipline development, it is timely for us to promote it from technique level to discipline level. In this paper, the name of stable isotope analysis was renamed as stable isotope bioarchaeology for the first time, abbreviated as isobioarchaeology, as an important branch of bioarchaeology in broad concept. Furthermore, the definition, overview of research history, analytical principles, and targets of isobioarchaeology have been introduced in detail. In particular, two new analytical principles, “You are what you are” and “You are where you live”, were proposed for the first time except two previous principles, “You are what you eat” and “You are not what you eat”. Finally, the perspective on conducting in-depth isoboarchaeological researches was discussed.

    The research progress and prospect of organic residue analysis in China
    YANG Yimin
    2021, 40(03):  535-545.  doi:10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2021.0051
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    Organic residue analysis refers to extract and identify organic molecules from their carriers, and explore the biological origins of organic residue in order to understand the processing and exploitation of ancient animals and plants by ancient humans, as well as the function of corresponding carriers. Organic residue analysis has been practiced over forty years in China, and many advances have been achieved, but still needs more attention. This paper mainly reviews the development history of organic residue analysis in China archaeology, and then summarizes the research progress associated with animal products, cereal crop products, economic crop products, carbonized materials in vessels and organic gemstones. These studies mainly involve the use of biomarkers, lipids and proteins, also a few breakthroughs of plant microfossils including starch grains and phytolith analysis. Finally, the prospect of organic residue analysis in China is outlined.