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    Cranial modifications in prehistoric China
    HE Jianing, RAN Zhiyu
    Acta Anthropologica Sinica    2023, 42 (05): 575-589.   DOI: 10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2023.0054
    Abstract295)   HTML519)    PDF (13760KB)(172)       Save

    The ancient cultural practice of cranial modification is widely distributed throughout the world. It has a highly symbolic visual feature and is related to various societal aspects such as hierarchy, status, aesthetics and religion. Cranial modification can also be considered a result of infant-rearing behaviors in ancient times. The earliest clue to cranial modification in China came from the Paleolithic, but it was not until the Neolithic that it became a widespread cultural practice later flourishing. Cranial modification in prehistoric China is classified into tabular-annular modification system and occipital modification system. Both originating locally, these two systems have different appearances, distributional ranges, and developmental processes. Tabular-annular modification, originated in northern Northeast China, exhibits prominent cosmetic features and requires complex technology. It is considered to be the earliest known conscious cranial modification practice and may have continued into the historic period. The origin of this tabular-annular modification may be correlated with unique geographic and environmental resources of Northeast China along with a growing complexity of gathering-fishing-hunting society, a gender division of labor, and the hierarchical differentiation existent in a transitional phase from Paleolithic to Neolithic. Occipital modification, centered in the Yellow River basin, is characterized with less pronounced modifications and probably required simpler techniques. It was once widely popular in the late and final Neolithic. Occipital modification may derive from behaviors of infant-rearing in northern agricultural societies and gradually evolved into a conscious cultural practice. Its decline at the end of the Neolithic and eventual disappearance after the Bronze Age was closely connected to societal changes occurring during the Late Neolithic, especially in the Longshan-Erlitou cultures. Both tabular-annular and occipital modification systems vary in skull morphology and measurement data suggesting that modification tools, techniques, and procedures were diverse. Existing studies on cranial modification are dominated by qualitative descriptions, with detailed observation and more systematic measurements necessary for future studies, as well as more refined archaeological contextual information.

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    Stone artifacts unearthed from the Baixigou site in the Nihewan Basin
    YI Mingjie, YU Guanyue, CHEN Fuyou, ZHANG Xiaoling
    Acta Anthropologica Sinica    2023, 42 (05): 590-603.   DOI: 10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2023.0050
    Abstract157)   HTML171)    PDF (11936KB)(114)       Save

    The Baixigou site is located on the secondary terrace of Sanggan River in Yangyuan County, Hebei Province. A salvage archaeological excavation of an area of 4 m2 in 2017 revealed a cultural layer of 6 cm thick, from which 991 artifacts were unearthed including 684 lithics and 307 animal bones. With a single cultural layer and thin accumulation, the Baixigou site has hardly been disturbed during its formation process. Artifacts are densely distributed around a hearth, including microblade products, flake tools, animal bones, ostrich eggshell beads and possible pigments. Different types of stone tools were made with specific raw materials, indicating that exploitation of raw materials was well-planned and systematic. The technology of wedge-shaped cores is close to the Yubetsu method where humans applied this technique skillfully and simplified core preparation procedure in consideration of blank characteristics. Chipped stones are most likely to be by-products of microblade production, of which 19 groups were refitted. There were only three tools, including one scraper and two adzes, but they are exquisite and reflect a trend towards standardization and craft specialization. Preliminary dating shows that the site was occupied around 17 kaBP. From the perspective of a forager-collector model, the Baixigou site is similar to a temporary field camp with a logistic mobility strategy. Activities carried out here are low-intensity, and thus few lithics have been used. Specialized tools such as adzes may reflect a connection between a residential camp and a more permanent field camp. To be specific, in addition to providing necessary tools for groups in the temporary field camp to reduce risk and maintain high mobility, groups in the residential camp provided specialized tools that met the needs of field camp. As a result, specialized tools are found in both types of camps. A significant number of microblade have been unearthed from the Nihewan Basin that shows a three-stage change corresponding to emergence, spread and gradual fading of microblade technology (i.e., early stage before and during Last Glacial Maximum; middle stage from post-LGM to pre-Holocene; and late stage during early Holocene). The process was consistent with climate fluctuations. Abundant archaeological remains indicate that group mobility of these hunter-gatherers slowly reduced with a tendency towards a more organized society.

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    2014 excavation report of the Fuyihegeliang Locality Pit 3 of Xiachuan site, Shanxi
    DU Shuisheng, ZHANG Ting, REN Haiyun
    Acta Anthropologica Sinica    2023, 42 (05): 638-650.   DOI: 10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2023.0023
    Abstract93)   HTML81)    PDF (36784KB)(58)       Save

    In summer 2014, we excavated the Fuyihegeliang Locality Pit 3(named QX2014T3, 35°26′22′′N, 112°0′43′′E) for 6 m2 in area, which is an important locality of the Xiachuan site. There were 1036 stone artifacts recovered from the pit, with 853 pieces from the Lower Cultural Layer and 183 from the Upper Cultural Layer. The lower layer dated to 40~30 kaBP with the upper layer formed after 30 kaBP.

    Exotic black flint was the predominant raw material, and included light-duty tools such as scrapers, pièces esquillées, denticulates, endscrapers and backed segments. In the Lower Cultural Layer, heavy-duty implements such as grinding tools, stone axes and adze-like tools were mostly of local quartz sandstone. There was also a small amount of agate and siliceous mudstone used.

    The Lower Cultural Layer objects were formed directly from hard hammer percussion without prepared cores. Products lacked standardization. In the Upper Cultural Layer, pressure flaking was widely used in producing microblades and retouched tools.

    Heavy-duty tools (stone axes and adze-like tools) were missing from the Upper Cultural Layer, which also showed different retouching methods. For example, endscapers were mostly processed by hard hammer in the Lower Cultural Layer, in contrast to pressure flaking of the Upper Cultural Layer.

    In general, the cultural technology of these two layers was different. The Lower Culture Layer belonged to a simple core-flake technology with heavy-duty tools (stone axes, grinding tools, stone hammers) and light-duty tools (scrapers, notches, points, denticulates, pièces esquillées, endscrapers, spur-like tools, backed segments). The Upper Cultural Layer was mostly microblade technology, with burins, endscraper and pièces esquillées as the main tool types. These findings offer new materials for research of the Middle-Upper Paleolithic transition and the emergence of microblade technology in China.

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    A report of the 2010 excavation of the Helongdadong site, Jilin Province
    XU Ting, ZHAO Hailong, GU Lingbo
    Acta Anthropologica Sinica    2023, 42 (05): 651-666.   DOI: 10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2023.0051
    Abstract121)   HTML27)    PDF (58558KB)(63)       Save

    Here we report archaeological findings from the 2010 excavation of Helongdadong, an open-air site in the hinterland of the Changbaishan Mountains around 75 km east of the Changbaishan Tianchi volcano. Abundant lithic artefacts featured by blade and microblade technology were uncovered. Theses finding make Helongdadong one of the earliest evidence for microblade technology in Northeast China, and provides important insights into the emergence and spread of microblade technology in northeastern Asia.

    Situated at the crossroads of Northeast China, the Korean Peninsula, and the Russian Far East, the Changbai Mountains show large quantities of lithic assemblages characterized by blade and microblade technology that plays a critical role in exploring emergence and spread of microblade technology and its relationship with climatic and environmental changes. Extensive utilization of obsidian and the toolkits themselves indicate a connection with other areas in northwest Asia. In the heart of the Changbai Mountains, the Helongdadong site (43°5′20.4″N, 128°57′20.9″E) is located on the third terrace of the left bank of the Tumen River, about 500 m north of Dadong village, Chongshan Town, Helong City, Jilin Province. It was discovered in 2007 and excavated in 2010. The deposits consist of seven layers with cultural remains from layers 1, 3, 4 and 5. From an area of 50 m2, a total of 1253 lithic artifacts, 47 unmodified gravels, and 3 animal bones were unearthed. Obsidian is the predominant raw material. The technology is characterized by blade and microblade reduction. Toolkits mainly include burins, endscrapers, scrapers, and bifacial points etc. of which burins and endscrapers are primary tool types and are highly standardized in shape. Partially polished stone tools discovered in Layer 4 constitute one of the earliest dated edge-polished stone tools in China. From Layer 4, the main cultural layer of Helongdadong, lithic artifacts are spatially concentrated, suggestive of an in-situ burial. The spatial distribution of the lithics also indicate human activity such as procurement, blank production, modification and tool manufacture. A radiocarbon date of 21350±120 (25900~25340 BP cal) was obtained for Layer 4, corresponding to the initial stage of the Last Glacial Maximum. Preliminary results of Optically Stimulated Luminescence dating further suggests that the dates of layers 5 and 4 were not earlier than 28 kaBP, and Layer 3 around 15 kaBP. The well-preserved, stratified and dated contexts of the site provide essential information for building a chronostratigraphic framework in the Changbai Mountains and make it possible to perform a comparative analysis of lithic technology in northwest Asia during the Upper Paleolithic.

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