April 12, 2024

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Scientists have discovered advanced tools 1.1 million years old in China

Scientists have discovered advanced tools 1.1 million years old in China

A groundbreaking study reveals that East Asia was inhabited by hominins with advanced tool-making skills equivalent to Mode 2 technology more than 1.1 million years ago, challenging previous timelines and perceptions of early technological development in the region. The discovery, which highlights sophisticated technologies and layouts, signals a reassessment of early human culture and relationships across Eurasia. (AE) Thin flakes are deliberately broken and used as blanks for retouching turned tools. (GI) Unilaterally revised points. (g) Drills. Credit: IVPP

A new study from the Niheyuan Basin in China reveals that hominins with advanced grinding abilities equivalent to Mode 2 technological advantages occupied East Asia 1.1 million years ago (Ma), 0.3 million years earlier than the date associated with the first era. Hand axes have been found in East Asia. This suggests that type 2 hominins dispersed into East Asia much earlier than previously thought.

The study conducted by a joint team led by Professor PEI Shuwen from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Professor Ignacio de la Torre from the Institute of History of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) was published in With people on March 4, providing insight into early hominin dispersal and adaptation processes in Eurasia.

Advanced tool making techniques

By reconstructing the Cenjiawan regeneration assemblages from the Nihewan Basin, the research team discovered structured flaking techniques aimed at producing thin flakes by preparing the core on both the striking platform and the flaking surface. A uniform operational process was not only demonstrated by the replenishment batches: much of the product was separated at each stage of the process, providing strong evidence of a uniform basic setup.

Operational chart of core technology prepared and products previously defined in CJW

Operational diagram of the core technology prepared (A and B) and the products previously defined in the CJW (C and D). Credit: IVPP

The basic techniques developed were characterized by systematic methods for obtaining pre-determined flakes that required detailed planning and a deep understanding of flake mechanisms, originating in the Acheulean and especially more than 1.0 million years ago.

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Regarding modified tooling, technological analysis of retooled products separated from the basic prepared technology indicates intentional breaking of thin wafers in half. One or more of the resulting parts were then selected as blanks for retouching, with the aim of creating inverted tools with two closely spaced sides, thus significantly changing the original shape of the blanks.

In addition, patterns of retouching tools such as points and drills, which showed uniformity of tool shape, are also well documented in the Xingiawan group, indicating complex mental templates among Xingiawan tool makers.

Complexity of tool making in the early Pleistocene

The established core technology, standardized pre-defined products and retouching tool shapes, combined with the high level of manual precision, segmented reduction sequences, long reduction sequences and systematic management of raw materials documented in the Cenjiawan Group, provide compelling evidence of complex technical capabilities. and in-depth planning behaviors among early Pleistocene hominins in East Asia.

CJW location and lithology of the CJW profile and corresponding magnetic polarity time scale

CJW location and lithology of the CJW profile and corresponding magnetic polarity time scale. Credit: IVPP

“The advanced technological behaviors documented at the Cenjiawan site resemble those of Mode 2 technology, rather than the technical simplicity attributed to Mode 1,” said Dr. Ma Dong Dong, first author of the study, who conducted the research during his PhD. at IVPP and currently works as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of History at CISC.

Lower Paleolithic technology in China has long been considered simple (Oldowan/Mode 1-like) and homogeneous before the Late Pleistocene. The compelling evidence in the Xingyawan group provides a new perspective for understanding China's micro-debt system, and may force us to reconsider current perceptions of technological stagnation in East Asia.

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The authors argue that technological features, not simply the presence or absence of certain types of tools (such as hand axes), should be the basis for studying early and middle Pleistocene assemblages in East Asia. This allows a more integrated understanding of Mode 2 technology as well as the human cultural and biological connections between East Asia and other regions of the ancient world.

Reference: “The first basic technology prepared in Eurasia from Nihuan (China): Implications for early human capabilities and their spread in East Asia” by Dong-Dong Ma, Xu Wen Bi, Fei Shih, Qi Yi, Fa Gang Wang, Jing-Yu Xu, Cheng Long Deng and Ignacio de la Torre, March 4, 2024, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
doi: 10.1073/pnas.2313123121