Acta Anthropologica Sinica ›› 2021, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (03): 393-410.doi: 10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2021.0061

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Progress and issues of chronological studies of human fossil sites in China

GE Junyi1,2,3,4(), DENG Chenglong5,6, SHAO Qingfeng7, PEI Shuwen1,2, TANG Ruiping1,3, TU Hua8, GAO Xing1,2,3   

  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
    3. University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049
    4. State Key Laboratory of Palaeobiology and Stratigraphy, Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Nanjing 210008
    5. State Key Laboratory of Lithospheric Evolution, Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100029
    6. Institution of Earth Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100029
    7. School of Geographical Sciences, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing 210023
    8. Marine Biology Institute of Shantou University, Shantou 515063
  • Received:2021-03-13 Revised:2021-04-27 Online:2021-06-15 Published:2021-06-24


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.

Key words: Cave deposits, Sedimentary reworking, Paleoanthropological geochronology, Human evolution, Hominin site dating

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