Lithic production strategies during the late Middle Pleistocene at Dali, Shaanxi Province, China : implications for understanding late archaic humans

10 Apr 2018

The Dali hominid site is well known as it contains a human cranium associated with stone artefacts and animal bones. Dating efforts have provided an age range of ~ 300–247 ka for these remains. Renewed study of the cranium in recent years has revealed a mix of archaic traits in the neurocranium and derived features in the face, and thus, this specimen may provide insight into our understanding of modern human evolution in China. However, the technological behaviour possessed by these people has remained unclear due to a lack of new and detailed research. In this paper, we re-examine the lithic assemblages from Dali, originally excavated in 1978 and 1980, and for the first time, we now provide a sound assemblage by removing those geofacts that have been used in past archaeological reports. Although the total number of artefacts is now smaller, our results show that core reduction strategies at Dali are primarily expedient, dominated by simple unifacial unidirectional flaking. In contrast, the formal tools exhibit relatively advanced technology, with artefacts that are diverse in type and characterized by a relatively standardized production strategy. In contrast to the widely accepted model for slow and conservative technological development in Chinese Palaeolithic technology, pre 40 ka, here, we suggest that there is evidence for gradual technological changes from the Early to Middle and early Late Pleistocene.