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UPDATED: 08:38, July 27, 2004
Earliest prehistoric site in NE China discovered
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Chinese archeologists have determined that the Xiaohexi site in Chifeng City, north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, dating back 8,500 years, was theearliest prehistoric civilization site in the northeastern part ofthe country.

This latest dating was 300 years earlier than the archeologists formerly believed.

The Xiaohexi Culture, named after the Xiaohexi site at Aohan Banner of Inner Mongolia, had only smaller-sized primitive villages, whose houses were built partly underground. People living in that period had learned how to polish stone tools, according to Liu Guoxiang with the Research Institute of Archeology under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

This was the earliest Neolithic culture in the northeastern part of China, Liu said.

"The mystery of the Neolithic Xiaohexi culture has begun to be unveiled," said Liu.

"Though only three sites of the culture have been unearthed, more than 300 artifacts, including various pottery mugs and vases as well as various bone and stone utensils have been discovered," Liu added.

Among the artifacts, there was a 5-cm-tall, half-palm-sized pottery statue of a human face. The earliest of its kind in the northeastern regions, it might have been used for worshipping or sacrifice offering, Liu reckoned.

Typical stone tools at the Xiaohexi site included larger tools with a hole at the center and smaller tools with a hollow cut at the center. The designs were seldom seen in Neolithic cultures in China, which remained mysterious to archeologists.

"Only tests and experiments can explain the use of these stone tools, as different scratches would be left by wood and meat cutting and mud digging," said Prof. Yan Wenming with Beijing University, who is also the vice chairman of the China Archeology Society.

Discovered in 1987, the Xiaohexi site had coarse pottery utensils with no ornamental designs on their surface. Archeologists believe that it is easier to determine an archeological time with pottery than with stone or bone utensils.

Northeastern China is an important birthplace for prehistoric cultures in northeastern Asia. And Xiaohexi culture is seen as oneof the most important archeological discoveries after the famous Hongshan Culture, a Neolithic culture dating back 5,000-6,000 years in Chifeng City, Inner Mongolia.

Source: Xinhua

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