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Technological behavior of the early Late Pleistocene archaic humans at Lingjing (Xuchang, China)

  • Hao Li
  • Zhan-yang Li
  • Xing Gao
  • Kathleen Kuman
  • Alexandra Sumner
Original Paper

Abstract

The period approximating 100 ka relates to Middle Paleolithic or Middle Stone Age technological behaviors that are generally characterized by prepared core technology, an expanding range of retouched tools, and the novel exploitation and sourcing of raw materials. As opposed to other regions of the world, the technological features of this period in China are deeply debated and remain unclear. Presently, it is suggested that Chinese lithic technology during this period is marked by the continuation of mode 1 artifacts that are characterized by simple cores, flakes, and tools that lack standardization. Here, we present a lithic assemblage associated with the discovery of two archaic human crania at the Lingjing site, securely dated to ~ 125–90 ka. A detailed analysis of stone artifacts shows increased technological advancement of the Lingjing humans during this period, including bi-conical discoidal core reduction strategies, discrete small-sized tool types, and refined retouch on blanks. Those features are also shared by the contemporaneous sites documented across the broader Eurasian and African continents. However, the rarity of prepared core technologies at Lingjing, such as Levallois or laminar flaking, likely indicates a unique technological trajectory compared to sites outside of China. It is due to this that we herein adopt the term Chinese Middle Paleolithic to more clearly refer to the variations we have identified at Lingjing. The Lingjing lithic assemblage, overall, could potentially represent a regional expression of the Middle Paleolithic technocomplex in China, although details about the processes behind its development are still unclear. The study contributes to a new understanding of the long-standing view of the simplified technological behaviors in China before ~ 40 ka and sheds light on the interpretations of the implied human behavioral transformations in the early Late Pleistocene of China.

Keywords

Lingjing Early Late Pleistocene Archaic humans Technological behavior Chinese Middle Paleolithic 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank X.M. Sun, L.M. Jia, and Q.P. Zhao from the Henan Provincial Institue of Cultural Relics and Archeology, Luc Doyon from the Shandong University, S.Q. Zhang and W. Dong from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and cultural relics units in Xuchang. Our sincerest thanks to all for contributions to site excavation and study. We also thank Ignacio de la Torre, from the University College London, for his insightful comments on an earlier draft.

Funding information

This study was funded by the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDB26000000, XDA19050102), the Chinese Academy of Sciences Pioneer Hundred Talents Program, the Shandong University 111 Project (111-2-09), the Youth Project of the National Social Science Fund of China (16CKG003), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41672020). KK’s collaborative work in China is supported by the National Research Foundation of South Africa (grant number 88480).

Supplementary material

12520_2018_759_MOESM1_ESM.docx (8.3 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 8487 kb)

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and PaleoanthropologyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.CAS Center for Excellence in Life and PaleoenvironmentBeijingChina
  3. 3.Institute of Cultural HeritageShandong UniversityJinanChina
  4. 4.Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and ArchaeologyZhengzhouChina
  5. 5.School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental StudiesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  6. 6.Department of AnthropologyDePaul UniversityChicagoUSA
  7. 7.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of New BrunswickFrederictonCanada

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