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Lithic Artefacts Collected from Open-air Sites during 1995—1999 Investigations in Luonan Basin, China

WANG She-jiang~1,SHEN Chen~2,HU Song-mei~1,ZHANG Xiao-bing~3, Wang Chang-fu~4,Richard Cosgrove~5(1.Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology,Xi'an710054; 2.Royal Ontario Museum,Toronto,Canada;3.Museum of Luonan County726100; 4.Shangluo District Museum,Shangluo City726000;5.Department of Archaeology, La Trobe University,Melbourne,Australia 3086)  
Since 1995,a total of 268 Palaeolithic open-air sites/localities were identified in the Luonan Basin,from which 13579 lithic artefacts were collected.The present paper focuses on the technological analyses of 1751 lithic artefacts collected from 50 open-air sites during 1995—1999 investigations.The paper presents (1) descriptions of the lithic assemblages,(2) results of the typo-technological analyses of the artefacts,and (3) discussions on aspects of site function.The analysis suggests that the stone tools from the open-air sites were made of local raw materials which come from the cobbles of the South Luohe River.The raw materials are of high quantity and quality.They were procured,transported,and used by early hominids at these locations.A wide variety of raw materials were selected for tool manufacture; however preference was given to isotropic stone such as cream quartzite,greywacke,dark grey quartzite and quartz.Cores comprise the largest proportion of lithic classes, characterized mainly by single platform and double platforms.Most cores show low numbers of flake scars,suggesting an opportunistic use of raw materials because of their abundant supply.Further,this pattern points to an unspecialised and expedient technology,even though there is some evidence for sophisticated manufacturing in the form of (Levallois-like) techniques.Like the cores,the flake platforms are dominated by cortical surfaces.However,the presence of fine percussion points with a relatively high proportion of non-cortical dorsal surfaces demonstrate that these early hominids had a technical control over the production of flakes and were skilled in the handling of various raw materials.The flake shapes show that the square or rectangular marginal forms are the dominant categories.The triangular form also appears to have a relative high frequency while the irregular form is less common.Thus,the standardisation of flake shape may be indicative of attempts to regularise flake production.The other important feature of the assemblage is that bi-polar flakes are uncommon.The main percussion techniques that were used were direct hard hammer percussion and anvil-chipping techniques.Tools include a variety of Mode I "chopper-chopping tools" such as choppers,scrapers,points,and burins.In addition,many typical Acheulian-like artefacts such as hand-axes,cleavers and bi-facially modified trihedrals were identified.Moreover,Acheulian-like artefacts dominate the assemblages and are mostly made from both larger primary flakes and flat pebbles.Small amounts of flaking debris occur on the open-air sites suggesting that reduction of the cores may have occurred elsewhere.The lithic artefact morphology and tool composition in the open-air sites of the Luonan Basin share some common characteristics with other open-air sites in South China.For example,these industries produced higher presence of bi-facially retouched heavy-duty and light-duty tools that may represent an Acheulian-like Palaeolithic cultural pattern.The open-air sites across the basin shed new light on land-use pattern of early hominids.Our previous study suggests the Longyadong cave site probably represents a preferred site of occupation by early hominids repeatedly visited over a long period of time.The significance of different lithic technologies between the cave and open-air sites is that these two kinds of sites represent different functions involving different hominid behaviours using a range of different tools.
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