Page 5/5
Experts Place Ancient Toolmakers on a Fast Track to Northern China
by John Noble Wilford
Bands of early human ancestors became the first intercontinental migrants sometime before 1.75 million years ago. That was when they left their skulls and stone tools near the Black Sea in Georgia, the oldest clear evidence uncovered so far of an ancestral presence outside Africa.
Now a discovery of 1.66 million-year-old stone tools in northern China has produced the earliest evidence that some of these ancestors, probably the species Homo erectus, apparently dispersed across Asia at a relatively rapid clip and made a place for themselves in a wide range of environments.
Scientists report in the current issue of the journal Nature that these ancestors, referred to as hominids or hominins, were making and using "indisputable stone tools" at a lakeside site in upper Asia almost 340,000 years before any previously known settlement there.
Researchers were struck by the timing and latitude of the settlement in the Nihewan Basin west of Beijing. The findings at the Majuangou site, the researchers said, showed that the oldest known hominid presence in northeast Asia was "only slightly younger than that in western Asia," at the Dmanisi site in Georgia.
Dr. Richard Potts, an anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington who was co-leader of the Chinese excavations, said in an interview that the span of almost 100,000 years between the occupation of the two widely separated sites was "a drop in the bucket in terms of evolution."
Dr. Potts further noted, "Because the oldest layers show humans made tools and extracted bone marrow like early people in Africa, the Majuangou evidence suggests strong connections with African hominins and their rapid spread across Asia."
And both the Georgian and northern Chinese sites, it was noted, are located at 40 degrees north latitude, a colder, drier and more rigorous environment than the African tropics where hominids originated.
The research team suggested that the rapid migration possibly began during a phase of warm climate, which "enabled early human populations to inhabit northern latitudes of east Asia over a prolonged period."
The principal authors of the journal report were Dr. R. X. Zhu of the Institute of Geology and Geophysics in Beijing, who was responsible for dating the Chinese excavations, and Dr. Potts. They noted that the earliest artifacts of northern China were roughly comparable in age to Homo erectus fossils found in Java, in southeast Asia at 7 degrees south latitude.
Although no hominid fossils were found at the Majuangou site, Dr. Potts and others said they assumed the toolmakers were Homo erectus, one of the more immediate ancestors to modern humans.
The stone tools appeared to be used for hammering, chopping and scraping. The bones of deer- and horse-size mammals at the site indicated that they were butchered with the tools. In the colder climate with its seasonal scarcity of plant food, scientists said, meat would presumably be indispensable to the hominid diet.
Examining photographs of the tools from northern China, Dr. Philip Rightmire, a paleoanthropologist at Binghamton University in New York, said the artifacts were primitive and comparable in style and manufacture to those excavated at the Georgian site.
Dr. Rightmire is an authority on Homo erectus who is conducting research at Dmanisi but was not involved in the Chinese findings.
There seems to have been more of the Marco Polo than Thomas Edison in the travelers and settlers in north China 1.66 million years ago.
"We see little progress in toolmaking in the 100,000 years between the two sites," Dr. Rightmire said.
bradshaw foundation donate help
Mailing List

Email Sign-Up
website updates


First Name

Last Name


bradshaw foundation podcast
bradshaw foundation ishop dvd
Homepage About the Foundation Contact Us Facebook News Articles Twitter List of Research Papers Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Bibliographic Database Travel Index About the Expeditions Forthcoming Expeditions Bespoke Expeditions Enquire Practical Information History of Exploration Welcome to the iShop Film Downloads DVD's Sculpture Prints Clothing Messenger Bag eBooks INORA Downloads About iLecture Films Shipping & Handling iLectures In Conversation Video Stories Travel Films Read the reviews Privacy Policy Bradshaw Foundation Facebook Friends of the Foundation Archive Index World's Oldest Rock Art Africa Documentary Films South Africa RARI Giraffe Carvings Niger Namibia Western Central Africa Africa Paintings Gallery Tanzania The Tuareg People Tuareg Salt Caravans Gilf Kebir Birnin Kudu Rock Art Center Archive Index San Rock Art Paintings San Bushman San Rock Art Film Origins Centre Johannesburg Archive Index Arizona Baja California Baja California Film Coso Range Talking Stone Film Nevada Oregon Territory Moab, Utah Clovis First Australia Archive Index Introduction Bradshaw Paintings Kimberley Region The Unambal Hugh Brown Leif Thiele Gallery Dan Clark Grahame Walsh Bradshaws / Gwion Gwion Archive Index Introduction Origins of the British Avebury Stonehenge Sounds of Stonehenge The British Museum British Isles Megaliths Gower Peninsula Rock Art Mendip Hills Prehistory Northumberland Rock Art Red Lady of Paviland Stone Age Mammoth Abattoir Archive Index Introduction Peterborough Petroglyphs Western Canadian Rock Art Writing-On-Stone Wuikinuxv Territory Dinosaur Provincial Park Archive Index Huashan Rock Art Yinchuan Museum Rock Art Festival Field Trip Gallery Itinerant Creeds Inner Mongolia & Ningxia Vanishing Civilization Life in Rock Art (PDF) Tibet Tibet Photographs Dazu Rock Carvings Tiger Motif Archive Index Chauvet Cave Lascaux Cave Niaux Cave Cosquer Cave Rouffignac Cave Portable Art Defining Rock Art Tuc d'Audoubert Bison Dr. Jean Clottes Index UNESCO World Heritage Introduction Cave Paintings Gallery Visiting the Chauvet Cave Return to Chauvet Cave Investigating the Cave Venus & Sorcerer Werner Herzog Film Chauvet Publications India Archive Index Rock Art Central India Pachmarhi Hills India Rock Art Gallery Preservation & Education Dr. V. S. Wakankar Articles on India Rock Art Contemporary Art Sri Lanka Archive Index Rock Paintings & Engravings Sri Lanka Rock Art Gallery Middle East Archive Index Middle East Inroduction Rock Art of Iran Rock Art of Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates Rock Art Ancient Geometry Middle East Colonisation Scandinavian Rock Art Archive Scandinavian Introduction Alta Rock Art Norway Rock Art in Finland Tanum Rock Art Sweden Thor Heyerdahl Archive Index Introduction America's Oldest Art? Pedra Furada Bolivian Rock Art Campeche Island - Brazil Checta Petroglyphs - Peru Cueva de las Manos Santa Catarina Island - Brazil Rock Art in Britain Campeche Rock Art Petroglyphs El Salvador - Corinto Cave Hand Rock Art Paintings Tibetan Rock Art United Arab Emirates Uzbekistan Yinchuan Rock Art Museum Introduction Ice Age Art Gallery Claire Artemyz Jill Cook Interview Cycladic Introduction Cycladic Gallery A Cultural Memory Izzy Wisher Biography Deer-tooth necklace Cave Art Introduction Geometric Signs Chart Research Methodology Geometric Signs in France Sign Types/Countries/Regions Bibliography Ancient Symbols in Rock Art Newsletter Archive Download Issues Introduction Genetic Map Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Further Reading Origins of the British BBC Documentary Origins Index Origins Overview 13 Big Questions Stanley Ambrose Homo Floresiensis Herto Skulls Homo Dmanisi Liujiang Skull Introduction Sentinels in Stone Easter Island Rock Art Birdman Cult / Motif Sea & Marine Creatures Design & Motifs Dr Georgia Lee Easter Island Map Contemporary Art Glossary Conclusion Thor Heyerdahl Introduction When & Who Built It? How Was It Built? The Area Sounds of Stonehenge Meaning of a Pyramid Pyramid Studies Pyramid Superstructure Pyramid Substructure Pyramid Preparations Pyramid Building Saqqara Nabil Swelim Temples of Malta and Gozo Research in the Caucasus The Keselo Foundation Homo Dmanisi Ancient Toolmakers Index Introduction Descent into the Cave The Decorated Caves Shamanistic Experience Spring Initiation Rites Summary Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Professor John P. Miller Motif: Eternal Index Banksy Han Meilin Bruce Radke Christian Tuki Gordon Ellis-Brown Site Map Search the Website Glossary of Terms & Definition Podcast on iTunes Other Websites Contact the Foundation