Evidence of pigment processing by humans 40,000 yrs ago found in north China

(Xinhua) 16:55, March 18, 2022

SHIJIAZHUANG, March 18 (Xinhua) -- Evidence of early use of pigments by humans has been found at the Xiamabei relics site in north China's Hebei Province.

Xiamabei is a Late Paleolithic site located in Yangyuan County's Nihewan Basin, which is one of the best-preserved areas in East Asia in terms of paleolithic remains and cultural sequences.

"The earliest known evidence of ochre-processing of prehistoric humans in China and even in East Asia was recently discovered in Xiamabei, depicting a vibrant living scene of East Asian dwellers 40,000 years ago," said Wang Fagang, associate researcher from the Hebei provincial institute of cultural relics and archaeology.

The remnants of ochre, stone tools, bone tools and the fragments of animal fossils scattered around the fire pits of the site date back 41,000 to 39,000 years, Wang noted.

Based on technical analysis, an ochre-rich staining zone was identified, large grinding discs and balls, as well as broken ochres, were found, and abrasion marks were discovered on the surface of some ochres, indicating that it was an ochre pigment processing site.

Most of the blade-like stone tools at Xiamabei had been downsized. Some stone tools show clear evidence of being hafted to a handle, and they were presumably used for hide scraping, whittling plant material and cutting animal tissue.

"When combined with records of relic distribution found during field excavations, we can vividly imagine an archaic human community 40,000 years ago -- relaxing around a fire, grinding stones for color, hafting stones for blades, and sharing food," Wang said.

"Forty-thousand years ago, it was a crucial point in the formation, diffusion and behavioral modernization of the Late Paleolithic revolution and early modern humans," said Yang Shixia, associate researcher at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"This analysis of human behavioral information obtained from the Xiamabei relics site provides us with evidence to understand behavioral changes of early modern humans in north China and even East Asia," Yang said. 

(Web editor: Xia Peiyao, Liang Jun)


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