Acta Anthropologica Sinica ›› 2023, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (05): 616-625.doi: 10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2023.0031

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Discovery and preliminary study of the Wenquan Paleolithic site in Ruzhou, Henan

ZHAO Qinpo1,2(), ZHANG Shuimu3, SU Kai4, MA Huanhuan5(), CHEN Jun6, XU Yonghua7   

  1. 1. Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Zhengzhou 450000
    2. Henan Provincial International Joint Laboratory on Origins of Modern Humans in East Asia, Zhengzhou 450000
    3. Pingdingshan Municipal Cultural Heritage Bureau, Pingdingshan 467000
    4. Department of Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri 63130, United States
    5. Institute of Cultural Heritage, Shandong University, Qingdao 266237
    6. History and Social Work College, Chongqing Normal University, Chongqing 401331
    7. Ruzhou Municipal Cultural Heritage Bureau, Pingdingshan 467500
  • Received:2022-12-22 Revised:2023-04-11 Online:2023-10-15 Published:2023-10-16


In November 2021, an archaeological survey of Paleolithic sites in Ruzhou, Henan Province was conducted by a team led by the Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology and several other institutes. An open-air Paleolithic site was newly discovered due to clearance of a river course. After thorough survey and investigation, we found cultural remains from an area of 80,000 to 100,000 m2 with cultural deposits about 3 m thick. The stratigraphy of the site consisted of 4 layers (from top to bottom): Layer 1, modern disturbed layer; Layer 2, silty clay; Layer 3, cultural deposits including artifacts and fauna, and characterized by sandy gravel; and Layer 4, bedrock. A total of 148 stone artifacts were collected from sections of river course and deposits piled up when clearing up the river away, and include cores, flakes, hammerstones and retouched tools. Raw materials were mainly quartzite and andesite, probably selected from river gravels. Artifacts of a core-flake industry were often made on quartzite, whereas large flakes used as blanks for large cutting tools (such as handaxes and cleavers) were usually made on andesite. Flake-cores play a prominent role in cores, and discoidal cores exist. Hard-hammer percussion was more common than bipolar percussion. Flakes were generally large to medium in size. Giant to large flakes were produced from cobble opening technology and bifacial core technology. Retouched tools included scrapers, points, choppers, handaxes, cleavers, picks, large knives, spheroids. Technological analysis suggests that flake-tool production system based mainly on small flake blanked scrapers and a pebble-core industry based on pebble-made choppers that co-existed with a heavy-duty tool production system made on large flakes, especially Acheulean elements (handaxes, cleavers, picks and knives). The latter shows clear differences from those of Olduvai culture represented by core-flake tradition. According to results of 14C dating based on charcoal samples from the upper unit of Layer 3 (> 40ka) and U-series dating of an animal tooth from the lower unit of Layer 3 (64.8 kaBP), occupation of this site was Late Pleistocene, a crucial period of origins of early modern humans in China. The discovery of the Wenquan site shows clear evidence for an existence of Acheulean technology in Beiruhe River region, providing new clues and a regional perspective on research of dispersal of Acheulean techno-complex in central China.

Key words: Archaeology, Lithics, Acheulean, Late Pleistocene

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