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CHINA - Prehistory

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Bianca
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« Reply #60 on: May 05, 2009, 02:05:07 pm »








                                   'Peking Man' Older Than Thought; Somehow Adapted To Cold






ScienceDaily
(Mar. 12, 2009)

— A new dating method has found that "Peking Man" is around 200,000 years older than previously thought, suggesting he somehow adapted to the cold of a mild glacial period.

A dating method developed by a Purdue University researcher allowed a more accurate determination of the age of the Zhoukoudian, China, site of remains of Homo erectus, commonly known as "Peking Man." The site was found to be 680,000-780,000 years old. Earlier estimates put the age at 230,000-500,000 years old.

Darryl Granger, the Purdue professor of earth and atmospheric sciences who developed the dating method, co-led the study with Guanjun Shen of China's Nanjing Normal University. They analyzed four stone tools and six sediment samples from the site.

"This was the first dating of this kind to be used in an early hominid site in China," Granger said. "Many of the existing data methods rely on the availability of volcanic rock, which the Zhoukoudian site does not have. This method provides a new tool to provide insight into places where dating was previously limited."

Susan C. Antón, associate professor in the Center for the Study of Human Origins at New York University said this discovery indicates "Peking Man" was somehow behaviorally able to cope with the cold environment.

"There is evidence that Homo erectus had physically adapted to the cold, but they probably also had to be doing something in terms of behavior to handle the cold of a glacial period in northern China," she said. "There isn't good evidence of fire or any kind of skins or clothing, but evidence of such things doesn't last long and wouldn't be recorded particularly well in the archeological record. It doesn't mean they didn't have them, but we don't have a definitive answer."

Homo erectus is considered to be the ancestor species to humans and the first species that left Africa and moved into Asia. The "Peking Man" site, discovered in the late 1920s, was among the first found for Homo erectus and shaped the thoughts on the age and behavior of the species, Antón said.

Granger used aluminum-26 and beryllium-10 radioisotopic dating, which is based on radioactive decay in the mineral quartz. As cosmic rays penetrate into rocks at the Earth's surface, chemical reactions produce these isotopes of aluminum and beryllium. If the rocks are then buried, the isotopes are no longer produced and those existing begin to decay. The rate of decay can tell researchers when the rocks were deposited in a site, he said.

Granger developed the method in 1997 and first used it for geomorphology work in caves in Virginia, but he recognized it could be used at hominid sites important to understanding human evolution. A colleague in China contacted Granger and asked him to examine the Zhoukoudian site.

The Purdue Rare Isotope Measurement Laboratory, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, is one of only two laboratories in the nation with equipment capable of performing this kind of dating. The facility contains an accelerator mass spectrometer that can perform ultra-sensitive analyses to measure low levels of trace elements in a sample.

Uranium-based methods of dating had been used at the site, but it appears the results had underestimated the ages, probably due to uranium dissolved in groundwater, Granger said.

Co-authors of the paper include Guanjun Shen and Bin Gao of the College of Geographical Sciences at Nanjing Normal University and Xing Gao of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology at the Academia Sinaca in Beijing.

The research team had difficulties in separating quartz from the sediment samples, and Shen and Gao got their entire department in on the work, Granger said. The sediment contained about 1 percent quartz, and the dating method requires pure white quartz.

"They ended up hand separating these bits of quartz the size of grains of sand," he said. "It took about eight hours to separate 2 grams of the pure white quartz needed, and each sample required 40 to 60 grams. Luckily the stone tools we analyzed were made only of white quartz."

Granger and Shen next plan to work on other poorly dated hominid sites in China.

This project was jointly supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and Wenner-Gren Foundation. The Zhoukoudian Site Museum provided the stone tools used.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Journal reference:

Guanjun Shen, Xing Gao, Bin Gao & Darryl E. Granger. Age of Zhoukoudian Homo erectus Determined with Al/Be Burial Dating. Nature, March 12, 2009
Adapted from materials provided by Purdue University.
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http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2009/03/090312165202.htm
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« Reply #61 on: May 05, 2009, 02:08:17 pm »








In this photo released by Project Exploration, Chinese dinosaur hunter Zhao Xijin, left, and University of Chicago Prof. Paul Sereno, right, compare fossil bones at the site of a buried dinosaur herd in the Gobi Desert of Inner Mongolia, China, May 2001.

Chinese and American scientists who found the 25 fossils of ostrich-like sinornithomimus in China's Gobi Desert say they shed new light on dinosaur social behavior.



(AP Photo
/Project Exploration,
Mike Hettwer, HO)
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« Reply #62 on: May 05, 2009, 02:09:15 pm »











                                             China's Gobi Desert Source Of Rare Dinosaur Find




 

March 16th, 2009
By CHI-CHI ZHANG
Associated Press Writer
BEIJING

- Left on their own by adults, the young dinosaurs sank into the mud beside a lake and died 90 million years ago in what would become the Gobi Desert.

The well-preserved fossils, excavated by a team of Chinese and American scientists, offer a rare bounty of clues about how this herd of ostrich-like sinornithomimus lived _ and died.

Two life-sized models of the sinornithomimus were put on public display for the first time Monday in Hohhot, capital of north China's Inner Mongolia region.

"This is a very exciting discovery, because 99.9 percent of the time, we find a group of skeletons that died at different periods due to unknown causes," said Paul Sereno, a University of Chicago professor on the excavation team. "The other 0.1 percent of the time, scientists consider themselves lucky to find small herds that have been well-preserved after floods or volcanic eruptions, similar to that of Pompeii."

Italy's famous city of Pompeii was buried _ its way of life frozen in time_ in the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79.

Sereno, a paleontologist, helped lead the 2001 expedition that uncovered the fossilized remains of the 25 young sinornithomimus near Suhongtu, a tiny, remote village in the Gobi desert about 370 miles (600 kilometers) west of Hohhot.

The position of the dinosaur bones suggests they were looking for water on the edge of a lake, got stuck and died as the mud engulfed them, Sereno said in a telephone interview. Their hip bones were found at odd angles, indicating scavengers tugged at their carcasses. Crablike organisms were also found surrounding the skeletons, a clue that tells scientists they were covered in water shortly after death, which helped preserve them.

Tan Xinwei, a paleontologist from the Inner Mongolia Department of Land and Resources who also worked on the expedition, said the findings tell researchers that "the youngsters were left to fend for themselves while the adults were preoccupied" with hatching eggs or building nests.

The two-legged, feathered dinosaurs reached about 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall as adults and scavenged for small plants by jutting out their long necks in an ostrich-like fashion, Sereno said.

Xu Xing, a professor at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, called the findings "an important discovery" that could only have happened under a unique set of circumstances.

"Without the correct environmental conditions, these fossils would not have been found in nearly pristine condition _ uncrushed or worn down," said Xu, who was not involved with the project.

The bones were spotted in 1978 by a Chinese geologist and first excavated by a Sino-Japanese team some 20 years later. That team named the dinosaurs sinornithomimus, or "Chinese bird mimic."

It wasn't until 2001 that researchers were able to unearth all 25 skeletons and examine their findings.

The sinornithomimus skeletons were brought to the University of Chicago for research and preservation but will return to China by the end of the year.

The 10-member expedition and research team included scientists from the University of Chicago, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Montana State University, the University of Michigan and Inner Mongolia's Department of Land and Resources. It was financed by the National Geographic Society.



Copyright 2009
The Associated Press.
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« Reply #63 on: May 05, 2009, 02:12:58 pm »

Nikkohl Gallant
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    Fresh proof of China being cradle of rice cultivation
« on: March 27, 2009, 10:08:08 pm » Quote 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------







                               Fresh proof of China being cradle of rice cultivation






By Lin Shujuan
(chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2009-03-27

Several archaeologists, once split over when human beings turned from nut collectors into rice farmers, seem to have solved their differences after collaborating on a project using methodologies agreed upon by both parties.

Dorian Fuller from the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, joined by Zheng Yunfei from Zhejiang Provincial Institute of Antiquity and Archaeology and a few other Chinese archaeologists, investigated rice remains at the Neolithic excavation site of Tianluoshan, part of the local Hemudu Neolithic Culture that goes back 7,000 years in Zhejing province.





In domesticated rice grains, the spikelet remains attached to the
panicle, until it is threshed.
 


Their research reported in the most recent issue of Science magazine concludes that rice cultivation was slowly domesticated over the course of two or three millennia in the Lower Yangtze region of Zhejiang, China between 6,900 and 6,600 years ago.

"The Hemudu people may not have been the first to initiate rice cultivation, but they certainly did cultivate rice and eventually domesticate it," Zheng tells China Daily.



Related reading:

 Yield-enhancing gene identified in rice



As one of the oldest rice cultivation bases in the world, Hemudu has attracted much research interest. But not everyone was convinced with the results.

Chinese archaeologists, believe that by the early Holocene (the period starting about 10,000 years ago), Neolithic people in both north and south China may have been harvesting wild rice and initiating rice cultivation that eventually led to domestication, according to Zheng.

Hence, when huge layers of rice remains were discovered in the Hemudu sites in the 1970s, Hemudu was immediately regarded as China's, and probably the world's, cradle of rice cultivation, says Zheng.

Fuller doubted the conclusion as it was based on "presumed domestication", with the long process of domestication "taken for granted, unproven and unquestioned".

Instead, Fuller argued in the study of agricultural origins, it is "prudent to presume plants are wild until evidence can be found to indicate domestication."

Zheng and many other Chinese archaeologists disagreed, saying their research had uncovered traces of the domestication process in many Hemudu sites. They said they had been able to tell the wild grains from domesticated ones, from their sizes.

But professor Qin Ling from Peking University, who is a member of the research team, says: "Grain size is a very indicator as different varieties might have varied sizes in different climate and environment even over the same period of time. But Fuller wanted hard evidence."

Hence, the team turned to another important trait for rice domestication — loss of seed shattering.

Wild rice shatters automatically, while domesticated rice will not, even when it reaches maturity. It needs to be threshed, explains Qin.

As they dug at the Hemudu site, Qin explains, they observed that the percentage of rice remains among all plant remains went up from eight to 24 percent.

This pointed to the increasing dietary importance of rice over time at the site.

The researchers also separated the rice remains into three categories (wild, domestic, and immature) based on their shattering signs, and determined that as time progressed, the domestic type of rice had increased in occurrence from about 27 to 39 percent over the course of 300 years.

"It is on the basis of this indicator that we have come to our conclusion, convincing not only us but also others," says Qin.



http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2009-03/27/content_7623278.htm
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« Reply #64 on: May 05, 2009, 02:17:43 pm »









                                   Early Chinese May Have Eaten Millet Before Rice







Waves of grain.

Farmers in northern China built their civilization on millet and also fed it to their dogs (inset).


Credit:
Loukas Barton
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« Reply #65 on: May 05, 2009, 02:18:57 pm »











                                    Early Chinese May Have Eaten Millet Before Rice






By Michael Balter
ScienceNOW Daily News
25 March 2009

The bones of dogs, pigs, and humans are shedding light on the rise of civilization in China. These remains contain a signature of the plants that all three species ate at the time and suggest that the ancient Chinese may have farmed millet before rice, new research shows.

The millet group of plants, like rice and wheat, are grasses that produce small, edible seeds.

Archaeologists have long known that they were domesticated very early in China and India; the earliest known noodles, which are 4000 years old and were reported by a Chinese team in 2005, were made of millet. Although rice was domesticated in China's warm and humid south, millet was domesticated in the north of the country, where conditions were much colder and drier. Yet archaeologists have debated whether these developments were independent or whether rice farmers from the south migrated north and began to cultivate wild millet--which grows much better than rice does in cold and dry conditions--thus transforming it into domesticated varieties.

A Chinese-American team led by Loukas Barton, an archaeologist at the University of California, Davis, and Seth Newsome, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington in Washington, D.C., tackled the debate at the early farming village of Dadiwan in northwest China. Dadiwan, which was first settled about 8000 years ago and produced China's earliest known painted pottery, was excavated in the 1970s and again in 2006. The site contains some fossilized fragments of millet, which is the main plant found there, but not enough to elucidate its domestication.

So the team looked instead at the remains of dogs, pigs, and humans who appear to have consumed the grain. Millet is a so-called C4 plant, which has a very efficient photosynthetic system for capturing carbon dioxide, whereas most other plants that grow in northern China are less efficient C3 plants. Because C4 plants concentrate more of carbon's heavier isotopes compared with C3 plants, a technique called stable isotope analysis--which measures the relative concentrations of isotopes in animal bones--can often detect which plants predominate in the diet.

The team found that the isotopic signature of bones located at the site changed over time. In the first phase of occupation at Dadiwan, between 7900 and 7200 years ago, pigs ate only C3 plants, whereas most of the dogs had C4 signatures, meaning that they ate millet. (Human bones from this phase were not available for analysis.) But during the second occupation phase, 6500 to 4900 years ago, all human and dog bones, and the great majority of pig bones, showed strong C4 signatures, indicating that all of their diets contained a lot of millet.

The team, which reports its results online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concludes that millet was farmed at Dadiwan in its earliest phases but not by rice farmers from the south. Rather, the presence of pigs with C3 signatures implies that they were wild; the early dogs with C4 signatures, on the other hand, were probably domesticated and being fed millet by humans. That means Dadiwan was likely settled by local hunters who were farming on the side. Later, when millet farming intensified, it became the mainstay of an integrated agricultural system that included millet-eating domesticated pigs and dogs. These findings, the team says, suggest that millet farming helped fuel the rise of the Yangshao culture, one of north-central China's most important early civilizations.

Dorian Fuller, an archaeologist at University College London, calls the report "an important new study" that "provide a novel methodology for thinking about the development and intensification of agriculture." Moreover, Fuller says, domestication of millet was apparently under way in northern China at a time when farmers in the south were just beginning to cultivate wild rice. The study provides definitive evidence "for millet agriculture developing earlier than full-fledged rice agriculture." 
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« Reply #66 on: May 05, 2009, 02:20:47 pm »










                          Chinese Scientists Find New Clue for Modern Vertebrate Origins






2009-03-26     
Xinhua News
Web Editor: Zhang Jin 
 
Chinese scientists' discovery of an intact and ancient fish fossil might bring the search for modern vertebrate origins out of the Devonian age (416 to 359 million years ago) and into the preceding period.

In early May 2008, Zhu Min, a scientist with the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, along with his research team, found a bony fish fossil, which represents the oldest complete gnathostome, or jawed vertebrate, ever found in the world in Qujin, southwest China's Yunnan Province. The fossil was preserved in 418-million-year-old limestone.

Zhu and his team published an article about the finding in the British journal, Nature, on Thursday.

The fossil, which Zhu nicknamed "Dreamlike Ghost fish", or Guiyu oneiros, shows the skeletal anatomy of a small sarcopterygian, around 33 centimeters long.

It offers insights into the origin and early divergence of osteichthyes (bony fish plus tetrapods), as it exhibits a mosaic of gnathostome characters and fills in the morphological gap between osteichthyans and non-osteichthyan groups, Zhu said.

"Crucially, this piscine offshoot of our own distant past is both unusually intact and exceptionally old," Michael I. Coates from the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago wrote in a commentary accompanying Zhu's article in Nature.

The early split of the jawed vertebrate and the origins of bony fish play very important roles in the evolutionary history of vertebrates.

"By pushing a whole series of branching points in gnathostome evolution out of the Devonian and into the Silurian, the discovery of Guiyu also signals that a significant part of early vertebrate evolution is unknown," Coates said.

A summary of vertebrate diversity helps to understand the significance of Guiyu in the evolutionary history. Of the 51,000 or more living species of vertebrates, 99.9 percent have jaws: these are the gnathostomes. Gnathostomes include the bony Osteichthyes and the cartilaginous Chondrichthyes. Chondrichthyes (sharks, rays and chimaeras) account for only 2 percent of gnathostome species. Osteichthyes account for the other 98 percent.

European scientists began to carry out studies on bony fish in the Silurian period (443 to 416 million years ago) four decades ago, but were only able to find fragmentary fossils such as scales or fin-spines. Those fossils were not adequate to piece together the comprehensive features of the bony fish ancestors.

At the beginning of this century, European scientists intensified their efforts in finding bony fish fossils and Nature reported the discovery of two incomplete fish jaw fossils in 2007.

Still, there are many doubts and questions on the Silurian bony fish which remain unsolved. A complete ancient fish, recovered from the depositions which were 400 to 350 million years old, could help answer those questions, Zhu said.

The discovery of Guiyu further proved that the evolutionary history of osteichthyans (bony fish plus tetrapods) extends back to the Silurian period.

"On the whole, early fossils are thought to be unreliable as minimum-date markers of evolutionary branching events, because they are less complete or lack the full anatomical signature of the group to which they are assigned," said Coates.

"Guiyu might be an exception that proves the rule, for it provides a new and exceptionally reliable earliest fossil marker for a major split in vertebrate evolution," he said.

Coates predicted that Chinese scientists' discovery would provoke a rash of new fieldwork in the Silurian depositions and a fresh look at existing collections of pre-Devonian fossils.
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« Reply #67 on: May 05, 2009, 02:23:21 pm »



Archeologists from the Chifeng Cultural Academy have scrutinized a flute
made of bones, which was unearthed at the Xinglongwa Site in Inner Mongolian
in 1986. 










                                                        Ancient flute found in Xinglongwa






WATCH VIDEO
http://www.cctv.com/program/cultureexpress/20090416/101611.shtml
Source: CCTV.com
04-16-2009

Traditional Chinese musical instruments are believed to have originated from the reign of Huangdi, or the Yellow Emperor, some two thousand years ago. But a recent discovery by the Chifeng Cultural Academy in Inner Mongolia suggests that Chinese musical instruments could be 3-thousand years older than previously calculated.

Archeologists from the Chifeng Cultural Academy have scrutinized a flute made of bones, which was unearthed at the Xinglongwa Site in Inner Mongolian in 1986. The ancient flute has long been kept at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. It wasn't until recently that the flute was shown to the public.

The ancient flute was made from the bones of bustard, a kind of bird usually seen in Northeast China. The tube is 18 centimeters long, with finger holes still evident. But it's main structure has partially eroded. Experts have restored the piece and professional musicians have been invited to play the flute.

The Xinglongwa Site, where the ancient flute was unearthed, is the birthplace of the Xinglongwa Culture, a Neolithic culture in Northeast China found mainly around the border of Inner Mongolia and Liaoning Province. It is the earliest archeological culture in China to feature jade artifacts and to depict dragons.

Apart from the flute, archeologists have also discovered graves at the site. It is thought that the owner of the grave site was male, who was probably the owner of the flute.
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« Reply #68 on: May 05, 2009, 02:25:01 pm »











                                   China's earliest known carving found in central Henan Province 
 
 




www.chinaview.cn
 ZHENGZHOU,
April 28, 2009
(Xinhua)

-- Chinese archaeologists say they have identified the country's earliest known carving -- a deer antler sculpted into the shape of a bird -- dating back 12,000 to 15,000 years.

    The fossilized grey figurine, which is 2.1 centimeters long, 1.2 centimeters high and 0.6 centimeters thick, was found in Xuchang County in China's central Henan Province in March.

    It is made from evenly-heated antler, and vividly carved with amicrolithic cutting tool.

    "The carving technique is more exquisite than the western carvings of its time," said Li Zhanyang, head of the archeological team in Xuchang, and a researcher with the Henan Institute of Cultural Relics and Archeology.

    Carvings of the late Paleolithic Age have been found in western countries, such as 30,000-year-old ivory horse and mammoth carvings at Vogelherd Cave in Germany, and human profile carvings at a cave in La Marche, France, that are about 10,000 years old.

    The bird figurine was unique in its feet that were carved with symmetrical sockets that enable it to stand stably, said Li. "This demonstrates that human beings already had a good grip of the equilibrium principal then."

    Li said the bird carving might have been left by hunters when they were very active in Henan Province around the Last Glacial Maximum period, which started about 25,000 years ago. It could have been a totem to represent good luck and freedom.

    If the bird carving could be exactly dated, it would provide important background for the research on the techniques, aesthetic and expression, as well as inter-regional migration and communication of human beings of that time, said Gao Xing, head of National Natural Science Foundation of China.

    The bird carving is not the first find at that site. In 2007 and2008, Chinese archaeologists announced that they found more than 30,000 relics in Xuchang, including human skull fossils dating back 80,000 to 100,000 years.

    The ancient skull was named Xuchang Man after the location. Scientists said the discovery was expected to provide direct evidence for the origins of modern Chinese and East Asian human species.
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