Acta Anthropologica Sinica ›› 2021, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (03): 349-362.doi: 10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2021.0044

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The progress and consideration on the study of site formation processes of early human occupation in China

PEI Shuwen1,2()   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100044
    2. CAS Center for Excellence in Life and Paleoenvironment, Beijing 100044
  • Received:2021-01-28 Revised:2021-03-02 Online:2021-06-15 Published:2021-06-24


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.

Key words: Human occupation, Sedimentary context of site, Site formation processes, Progress and consideration, China

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