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Archeologists Gather in Guilin to Discuss Cave Discoveries

Over 70 archeologists from China and abroad gathered in Guilin, southeast China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Thursday to discuss the latest discoveries in the Zengpiyan Cave.


Excavations in the cave have provided important clues to the life of prehistoric people in south China and cultural exchanges between south China and Southeast Asia.


Speaking at the four-day forum, Dr. Fu Xianguo of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said, "Zengpiyan Cave represents the aboriginal culture of Guilin, and the excavations there have helped frame the chronology of the prehistoric culture of Guangxi. Relics found at the site prove that the prehistoric inhabitants engaged in fishing, hunting and food collecting, as natural resources were abundant at that time."


Dr. Fu directed the latest excavations in the cave.


Vietnam has many prehistoric sites which have yielded relics similar to the stone and pottery found in the Zengpiyan Cave, leading to the conclusion that the two areas must have had similar ancestors, said Japanese archeologist Masanari Nishimura.


The Zengpiyan Cave, discovered in 1965, has an area of 220 square meters. The site has been excavated three times, and has yielded over 30 human corpses, 110 kinds of mammals, birds, fishes and reptiles, over 1,000 pieces of polished and pierced stone and bone ware, animal teeth, mussels and over 10,000 pieces of pottery.


Prehistoric cave dwellers usually chose caves facing the sun, sheltered from the wind and with rivers nearby, said Dr. Fu.


The Zengpiyan Cave faces southwest, with neighboring woods for hunting, lakes for fishing and plains for collecting wild vegetables. It is also adjacent to the Lijiang River, which is now a scenic tourism resort but used to provide gravel for primitive men to shape into tools or weapons.


The Zengpiyan Cave men had an average height of 1.65 meters, and the cave women were about 1.56 meters tall, according to latest test results. They lived on the roots of plants similar to today's potatoes and taros, as well as field snails, judging by the quantities of shells found in various strata.


They could even pick the meat out of the snail shells with polished bone needles and cook the snails in pottery vessels, said Dr. Fu.


The cave yielded the country's oldest pieces of pottery, and the appearance of pottery in the area is believed to be related to snail eating, Fu said.


Archeologists said the cave dwellers were also conscious of esthetics, and used bone needles to sew clothes made of hemp and animal skins, decorated themselves with necklaces of animal teeth and mussel shells, and dyed their bodies with hematite powder.


The archeologists said the cave was finally abandoned after being inhabited for 5,000 years when a warm and humid period started 7,000 years ago, and the cave, only one meter above the surrounding plain, was often flooded.


(Xinhua News Agency December 12, 2003)

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