Acta Anthropologica Sinica ›› 2021, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (04): 587-599.doi: 10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2021.0008

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

An experimental study on Paleolithic spheroids of China

LU Liqun1, DONG Bing2, CHEN Shengqian3()   

  1. 1. Research Center for Frontier Chinese Archaeology, Jilin University, Changchun 130012
    2. Hubei Provincial Institute of Archaeology and Cultural Relics, Wuhan 430000
    3. Department of Archaeology and Museology, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872
  • Received:2020-06-01 Revised:2020-10-09 Online:2021-08-15 Published:2021-08-17
  • Contact: CHEN Shengqian


Spheroid is a widely distributed tool type of the Paleolithic, from the Oldowan to Upper Paleolithic, all over the Old World. To date there are many divergent arguments about its manufacture and function. This study based on the archaeological records of China, where thousands of spheroids were found in 80 Paleolithic sites. Their forms include flaked spheroids and the highly rounded ones with battered surfaces, and the raw materials used vary from relatively soft limestone to quartzite. The metric data indicate it has an apparently skewed popularity in their size and weight, in accord with the size of male adults’ palm. An experimental approach is used to examine the techniques in the manufacture of spheroid, define the time cost of production, and test a functional possibility. Experiments suggest that the manufacture of spheroids is time costly, more expensive than the handaxe, more hours needed to produce a smoother surface. The dominant average size indicates that this tool was most likely used with freehand throwing. Throwing experiment shows, in relative to their distance, there is an optimal size and weight in spheroids. Combining archaeological context in which spheroids were found, we can conclude that spheroids could be a hunting tool, but shorter in shooting distance, more risky, and more opportunistic than the Upper Paleolithic hunting tools.

Key words: Spheroids, Paleolithic, Experimental archaeology, Cost of production, function

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