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AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL INTERPRETATION OF ANCIENT HUMAN LITHIC TECHNOLOGY AND ADAPTIVE STRATEGIES IN CHINA

Gao Xing Pei Shuwen(Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology,Chinese Academy of Sciences,Beijing 100044)  
This paper makes an attempt to interpret ancient hominid lithic technology and adaptive strategies in Pleistocene in China.It covers several aspects of lithic studies over Chinese materials,such as the distribution of Paleolithic sites and their taphonomic features,lithic technology,typology,morphology,function,raw material exploitation strategy,regional cultural traditions,and developmental trends.On the distribution of Paleolithic sites in China,it recognizes three concentration regions,namely,the central Northern China,the Middle-Lower reaches of the Changjiang River,and the southwest mountainous areas((Fig.1).) These sites are mostly situated in mountain-plain conjunction areas,including river terraces and caves.At most sites,only one cultural horizon was identified,indicating that human groups stayed in one region for only a short period of time.On raw material and resource exploitation,it suggests that major lithic materials utilized by ancient hominids in China are quartz,quartzite,and igneous rocks.Cherts and obsidians are seldomly procured.For the most time,stone tool makers procured only local materials.Only toward the terminal Pleistocene,evidence of long-distance procuring and transporting lithic raw materials began to emerge.In general,raw material exploited in stone tool manufacture in Pleistocene in China was characterized by high availability and low quality,which became a major impact on the development of lithic technology in the region. For a long period,hard hammer flaking on unprepared cores and bipolar flaking were the principal methods for core reduction;Only toward the Late Upper Paleolithic,core preparation technique and soft-hammer percussion,indirect percussion,and pressure flaking were employed.Most modified tools were retouched simply,casually,and unifacialy.Scraper and chopper-chopping tools are predominant tool types.Bifaces appear in a few sporadic sites,and most of them are from surface collection.Some sharp-edged flakes were used directly without further modification.Most of those tools can be classified as expedient implements judging from their informal and simple character and minimal modification.Therefore,it has often been labeled as "chopper-chopping tool tradition" or "simple core-flake tools".Obvious changes in lithic typology and technology happened in the Late Upper Paleolithic,when refined retouch techniques and resulted samples were evident in many sites,especially among the microlithic assemblages in North China.In another word,the Chinese Paleolithic remains can mostly be classified into Mode 1 technology.Products of this technocomplex can been found from the Lower through the Upper Paleolithic.The representative types of Mode 2 technology,e.g.handaxe,appears only at a few sites,such as the Baise Basin in Southwestern China's Guangxi Province.Artifacts with(Mode 3) characteristics are absent in the Chinese Middle Paleolithic,making it reasonable to argue that a comparable "Middle Paleolithic",derived from West Europe,dose not exist in the Chinese Paleolithic.Not until 30~25kaB.P.,a mixed assemblage with Mode 3 and Mode 4 technological components appeared in a few sites in North China,such as Shuidonggou.The Mode 5 horizon emerged in China around 20kaB.P.and spread widely in central North China,Northeastern China,Northwestern China,and the Tibetan Plateau.Based on such generalization and analyses,the authors put forward a comprehensive behavioral model for Pleistocene human survival and adaptation in China.It suggests that during most of the Pleistocene in China,hominid evolution was continuous,stable and slowly.Their adaptive strategies were characterized by high frequency of migration within certain natural geographic territories,being practical,flexible and in harmony with local environments,and acting according to circumstances.Cultural developmental trend was a combination of inheritance and renovation.This study also provides archaeological support for the hypothesis on the origin and evolution of modern Chinese,namely,"continuity with hybridization".
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