China's Paleolithic archaeology began with the discovery of Peking
Man and the excavations at Zhoukoudian in the 1920s and 1930s.
Since then, and the founding of the People's Republic of China in
1949, Paleoanthropological study has made great progress with the
discovery of Yuanmou Man (1.7 million BP; Homo erectus
Lantian Man (600,000 -1.7 million BP; Homo erectus
believed to be much earlier examples than that of Peking Man
(500,000 - 300,000 BP; Homo erectus
). In addition, fossil
remains that have been discovered in Hexian, Tangshan, Jinniushan,
Yunxian, Dali, Xujiayao, Dingcun, Liujiang and Maba, give a fairly
accurate anthropological record of human evolution in China.
The Paleolithic period in the Chinese archaeological record (1.7
million years BP) is abundantly represented. From the Himalayas in
the southwest to Heilongjiang in the northeast, China is rich with
the materials of pre-history and archaeologists have pieced
together, at over 200 significant sites, a relatively complete
Paleolithic cultural sequence that has allowed for the restoration
and reconstruction of ancient habitats.
2000, two 3 million-year-old ape fossils were found at Bagongshan,
Anhui Province, providing evidence of China's position in the
evolution of the species. A 10 million-year-old fossil remains of
the gibbon from the Miocene, and the earliest known in Asia, was
discovered in Shuanggou, Jiangsu Province in 1977.
Another Paleolithic site in Xiacaowan of Shuanggou produced human
remains from 40,000 BP which are, morphologically, similar to Upper
Cave Man at Zhoukoudian. The Xiacaowan man is thought to be a
descent of Peking Man and an ancestor of today's Chinese and
therefore the Jiangsu-Anhui, along with Shuanggou in its center,
could be another birthplace of modern man.
The flake, or expedient lithic tool, is a characteristic of the
Chinese Paleolithic, and small stone tools a distinguishing feature
of the northern Chinese Paleolithic where, over the period from the
Lower to the Upper Paleolithic, differences in culture between
north and south became more noticeable. In southern China, both
large and small stone tool-making occurred.
the Baise Basin, in Guangxi, archaeologists caught the attention of
the world when in 2000 they unearthed stone artifacts that,
according to some American scientists, have a history of 800,000
years. This calls into question the notion that East Asia's early
human activity and habitation is far behind that of the West's.
Sino-French excavations in Yunxian, Hubei Province, have also shown
that Yunxian Man began using axes in 800,000 BP, challenging the
long-held belief that China had no hand axe evidence in its
Paleolithology. Also, the first Lower Paleolithic cave site in east
China was found at Wanshouyan in Sanming, Fujian Province,
repositioning Fujian's Paleolithic by an extra 100,000 years.
Lithic implements at Shizitan in Jixian County, Shanxi Province,
have added to what is known of west China's Paleolithic. This area
has the deepest accumulation, richest cultural resource and the
largest distribution area for China's Upper Paleolithic.
Along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, built on the plateau of the same
name, known as the "roof of the world", archaeologists have
discovered Upper Paleolithic and Microlithic artifacts dating
between 10,000 and 30,000 BP. This discovery is understood to fill
the significant gap that existed in the semi-lunar cultural
circulation belt extending from Hailar in Inner Mongolia to Nyalam
part of the excavations taking place on the Three Gorges Project at
the Yangtze River, Paleoanthropologists have made significant
breakthroughs. Wushan Man, found in 1985, dates the area back to
between 2.01-2.04 million years BP and was accompanied by over 110
species of unearthed animal fossils, demonstrating the existence of
man in the Lower Paleolithic. In addition, in 1999 Heliang Man was
discovered in the Wu Gorge, the most scenic of the three. Salvation
at Jingshuiwan (100,000 BP), Fengdu County, in 2000, produced
400-odd stone implements including cores, flakes, choppers,
scrapers, pointers etc. Animal fossils were also found including
deer, ox, tapir and the stegodon.
(China.org.cn, translated by Shao Da, February 24, 2003)