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Researchers find evidence of an advanced material culture 45,000 years ago

A multinational team of researchers have published a new paper in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, presenting findings that indicate the existence of an advanced material culture in China around 45,000 years ago.

The paper centres on the Shiyu Upper Palaeolithic site in Shanxi Province, where previous archaeological excavations during the 1960’s uncovered evidence of human occupation in the lower context layers.

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Among the discoveries were more than 15,000 stone tools, numerous animal remains, and a fragment of a hominid skull, identified as belonging to the Homo sapiens species.

Part of this archaeological assemblage was relocated to the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology in Beijing, however, the remaining materials, including the cranial fragment, were lost when left in local facilities.

Under the direction of Dr. Shixia Yang, the researchers examined the remaining assemblage by using modern radiometric techniques that enabled them to accurately establish the chronological timeline. The results of their study revealed that the cultural layer at Shiyu dates to a period between 45,800 and 43,200 years ago.

According to the study authors, the finding provides new information to understand the expansion of Homo sapiens on the Asian continent and the arrival of the first modern humans in northern China. In addition, the type of material culture that the first settlers utilised.

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According to Professor Yang, “This is an Early Upper Palaeolithic assemblage, which includes laminar technology, but also Levallois points, projectile points with evidence of handling and impact fractures, tools made with obsidian from hundreds of kilometres of distance, projectile points made of animal bone, as well as a small perforated graphite disk.”

The material culture indicates that these early settlers had a capacity to supply themselves with resources from large distances and use a cultural hybridization of materials to gain a technological advantage.

Header Image Credit : Xiaocong GUO

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Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
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