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Perspectives on Hominid Behaviour and Settlement Patterns

A study of the Lower Palaeolithic sites in the Luonan Basin, China

Shejiang Wang


This study focuses on the Lower Palaeolithic archaeology of China. It examines early hominid adaptive behaviour based on the new evidence from the Luonan Basin, northern China. Unlike past Chinese Palaeolithic studies the study takes a regional approach emphasising the palaeoenvironmental, palaeoecological, and taphonomic information brought together from studies of faunal remains, spatial analysis of stone artefacts and bones, and lithic artefact refitting studies. Detailed analyses consist of lithic typology and technology. This is then compared at a regional and global scale. The study describes the regional setting, site formation processes, chronology, lithic assemblage raw materials and provides a typotechnological analysis of stone artefacts. The database comprises lithic artefacts and bone material excavated from the Longyadong cave as well as analyses of surface and subsurface archaeology of the 50 open-air sites dated to over 250 kyr ago. A total of 1,751 lithic artefacts were examined from theopen-air sites while at the Longyadong cave 18,609 items were analysed. They included stone artefacts, fauna as well as evidence for the use of fire. The data provide a framework for an examination of the lithic technology and typology, particularly its diversity and variability. The specific analyses reject the hypothesis of “two Palaeolithic cultural traditions” in North China, and strongly challenge the notion of the existence of the “Movius line”. The Palaeolithic open-air sites and the Longyadong cave site, were occupied by hominids co-existing under consistent ecological and environmental conditions for hundreds of thousands years. The very distinctive lithic assemblages found separately in the open-air sites and cave site are interpreted as reflecting different site function and varied subsistence activities rather than different hominid groups living contemporaneously in the valley. It reflects adaptive behaviours that appear to be the precursor to fully modern human behavioural organization.