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New discoveries at Gezishan Palaeolithic Site in China's Ningxia Province


Gezishan Site is located at the northwest of Qingtongxia city, Ningxia Province, it is an important prehistorical site in the later period of late Pleistocene in China. From 2013, the Ningxia Provincial Institute of Archaeology and Cultural Relics in conjunction with Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences made a systematical research, and cleared up the selected location No.10. In 2016, another great finding was made during the excavation.

New discoveries at Gezishan Palaeolithic Site, in China's Ningxia Province
Remains of camp fire found in Gezishan Site [Credit: Chinese Archaeology]
Excavation and research plan

Location No.10 was at the east of the Gezishan Basin. From 2014 to 2015, the archaeological team had felt out the distribution of the connate deposit of the site in the current situation, also had ascertained the actuality of the core area of the cultural layer. In 2016, archaeologists decided to expand the excavation scale in the core area, in order to get the overall connotation of the site.

In 2016, the archaeological team decided to clear up 200 excavation units (whose length of side was 1 meter) at the north of the core zone of the site, with an area of about 180 square meters. Expect the upper layer (disruption layer) was excavated as a thickness of about 20 to 30 centimeters layer, the rest was excavated as a thickness of about 5 to 10 centimeters.

Stratum, age, artifacts and remains

The stratum was divided into 5 layers, and archaeologists have recorded the three-dimensional coordinates of about 7,000 stone tools (larger than 2 centimeters) and more than 500 pieces of animal bones; Dozens of ostrich eggshell beads was found, especially those of less than 2 millimeters diameter, which became an important achievement of this excavation, however, the manufacturing techniques and the usage method, indicating the skills and cognitive competence need to be further researched.

New discoveries at Gezishan Palaeolithic Site, in China's Ningxia Province
The section which showed the uncertain post hole [Credit: Chinese Archaeology]
Meanwhile, about 400 pieces of charcoal samples was collected from different layers, in order to establish a high-resolution chronology frame and a solid background for the culture understanding. More than 20 remains of fire-using and carbon dust dense area were revealed, a large amount of burnt stones scattered in the excavation, and some of which were fireplaces with burnt bones around. In the fourth layer of excavation unit T5, dozens of round pits, with about 10-20 centimeters in diameter, 5-20 centimeters in depth were found, in zonal distribution, which was speculated to be temporary dwelling remains.

Academic values and significance

The excavation of Gezishan Site was the first time that chronosequence from the late period of late Pleistocene to the early period of holocene was established at the edge of the northwestern desert in China, providing important materials for understanding the prehistoric human activities and environmental change in this special geographic zone. Given to the excavation, archaeologists firstly found the stone saddle-quern, stone roller, featured bi-facial tools and Helan pointed implements in situ, which defining the date of those artifacts, and providing evidence of the means of livelihood and diet of ancient people at that moment in this area.

New discoveries at Gezishan Palaeolithic Site, in China's Ningxia Province
The ostrich eggshell beads [Credit: Chinese Archaeology]
The ostrich eggshell  and ornaments unearthed in the site refreshed our understandings towards the cognitive competence and skills of processing tiny objects of the ancient people, as well as providing perfect samples of studying their complex techniques and cognitive competence. A large number of fire using traces inside the site and its spatial distribution not only reflected the livelihood pattern, the background of climate and environment of ancient humans, but providing important informatiom for the activities of making fire, using fire and the use of housing space.

New discoveries at Gezishan Palaeolithic Site, in China's Ningxia Province
The pierced calcite ornaments [Credit: Chinese Archaeology]
Location No.10 of Gezishan site provides a complete stratigraphic sequence for this region. The cultural accumulations of at least three different periods have not only enriched our understanding of the period and its culture, but have also made it a special location for studying the cultural evolution and prehistoric human activities of the desert fringe zone from the late Pleistocene to the early Holocene as well as the transitional period from the Palaeolithic to the Neolithic. 

Translator: Wang Jue | Source: Chinese Archaeology [April 14, 2017]
TANN

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