Archaeological Discovery in N. China
Challenges Theory on Origin of Man

By Xinhuanet

November 9 (Xinhuanet) -- The latest archaeological discovery at the Old Stone Age ruins in Yangyuan County, north China's Hebei Province, proves that human activities began in eastAsia some 2 million years ago, archaeological sources said.

Chinese archaeologists unearthed more than 800 stone tools and animal skeletons left over by the ancients at historical ruins in a stratum dating back around 2 million years.

Xie Fei, a research fellow with the Hebei Provincial Relics Research Institute, said that the latest discovery at the Majuangou ruins in the Nihewan Basin proves that the date of the early stage human activities in east Asia is very close to the time of similar ruins discovered in Africa.

Xie, who has conducted archaeological research at Nihewan for 18 years, said that it is a question that deserves discussion among international archaeological circles: whether human beings migrated to east Asia at a fast speed at an early stage, or there was another origin place of man in the world.

Palaeoanthropology materials so far available show that the humans originated from Africa, and the earliest Old Stone Age ruins so far unearthed in the world are located in Ethiopia, dating back some 2.33 million years.

For a long period of time, many scientists believed that it wasimpossible for east Asia to have human activities some 2 million years ago.

  Xie and his colleagues conducted a month-long excavation at theMajuangou ruins from September to October, and unearthed a great number of stone cores, flakes, hammers and scrapers, and bones of elephants, deer, horses and other animals.

More than 100 kilometers from Beijing, the over 9,000-square-kilometer Nihewan basin has very thick deposits of rivers, lakes and yellow earth, which contain rich fossils of mammals and animals of other species. It has been a key excavation area of early man in east Asia since the 1920s.

Chinese scientists have discovered a non-stop list of ruins of the Old Stone Age belonging to the Pleistocene epoch at the basin.

The Majuangou site is divided into three cultural layers. The latest excavation was carried out in the third layer that was discovered in the spring of last year.

Archaeologists said that the ruins unearthed were of a site where the ancient people were preparing food, adding that marks ofstrikes by stone tools and scrapers were found on most of the animal bones discovered at the site, and a firestone scraper was found on a rib of an animal skeleton.

The excavated stone tools prove that the manufacturers were highly capable of distinguishing stone materials and very skilled at processing stone tools, archaeologist Xie said.

The ruins reveal that this group of ancient people had reached a high level, Xie added.

Early this year, Zhu Rixiang, a research fellow with the geological research institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), determined that the Xiaochangliang ruins at Nihewan Basin date back 1.36 million years, thus shifting back theknown date of the ancients' activities in China by 360,000 years.

Zhu spent three years studying the date of the Xiaochangliang ruins.

The third layer of the Majuangou ruins, where the latest archaeological excavation was conducted, is more than 30 meters lower than the Xiaochangliang ruins.

Judging from the comparison between the ancient geomagnetic dating materials and rock formation, researcher Wei Qi, of the ancient vertebrate and the ancients research institute under the CAS, said that the third layer of the Majuangou ruins is at least 1.9 million years old and possibly even more than 2 million years in age.

Beijing University professor Lu Zun'e, who made an on-the-spot investigation at the excavation site, confirmed that the date of the latest unearthed ruins is earlier than the date of the Xiaochangliang ruins.

Based on the latest discovery, archaeologist Xie Fei concluded that more earlier human activities might have existed in the Nihewan Basin.

Next year, Chinese archaeologists will make further and large scale excavations at the Majuangou ruins and other ruins in the Nihewan Basin, according to Xie.

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