Acta Anthropologica Sinica ›› 2023, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (03): 373-380.doi: 10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2023.0007

• Excavation / Investigation Reports • Previous Articles     Next Articles

A report of the 2020 excavation of the Shanghu Paleolithic site in Gaoan city, Jiangxi Province

ZHAO Wenjie1(), JIA Zhenxiu2, LI Sanling3, LI Hao2()   

  1. 1. Jiangxi Provincial Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology, Nanchang 330095
    2. State Key Laboratory of Tibetan Plateau Earth System, Resources and Environment (TPESER), Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101
    3. School of History, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875
  • Received:2022-06-21 Revised:2022-08-17 Online:2023-06-15 Published:2023-06-13


The Shanghu Paleolithic site is located in the town of Shanghu, Gaoan city, Jiangxi Province in central South China. The site occurs in red clay soils that were deposited at the top of the third terrace of the Jinjiang River. A total of 3030 stone artifacts have been excavated from Area B of the site. Among them, 1274 were unearthed from Layer 1, 1722 from Layer 2, and only 34 from Layer 3. Layer 1 is disturbed by modern agricultural activities and its age has not been established. The OSL dating of Layer 2 indicates that intensive site occupations began at the early stage of MIS 2 (i.e., approximately 26 kaBP). Layer 3 yielded a few artifacts and its age has not yet been established. The types of stone artifacts include cores, flakes, tools, chunks, debris and unmodified cobbles, and our analysis shows that vein quartz from the nearby river bank was favored for exploitation by humans. In addition, cherts were infrequently used, and non-preferentially given their development of inner fractures that compromised reduction sequences. Various core reduction patterns have been identified including discoidal cores that reflect centripetal flaking, which indicates some degree of organization during reduction sequences. Scrapers are the predominant tool type, with small samples of notches, denticulates, points, awls, etc. Tools are small and light and occur primarily on chunk and flake blanks, along with limited retouching. Overall assemblage dimensions confirm the prevalence of miniaturized lithics, clearly evident in the average length, width and thickness for free-hand percussed flakes (24.6 mm, 18.2 mm, and 8.9 mm), free-hand percussed cores (43.7 mm, 34.8 mm, and 25.5 mm) and tools (29.2 mm, 22.6 mm, and 12.3 mm, respectively). Traditionally, South China lithic assemblages are well-known for their large cobble tools, but there is increasing evidence for small-sized cores and flakes and flake-based tools at sites in different regions across South China. Therefore, the emergence of a small-sized flake tool industry in South China has become a key academic question. Some scholars argue that such an industry may be related to the migration of northern China populations, under relatively dry and cold environmental conditions that prevailed during MIS2. However, recent discoveries in South China of similar yet far older (~100 kaBP) lithic assemblages likely indicate a different scenario, and that this technology was probably locally developed in response to changing climatic conditions. Given its chronology and lithic technology, the Shanghu assemblage therefore provides new data that significantly improve our understanding of the emergence and development of a small flake tool industry in South China.

Key words: Shanghu site, Lithics, Vein quartz, Flake tools, MIS

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