Asian Perspectives, vol. 43, no. 2 (2004): Middle Pleistocene

SPECIAL ISSUE: Asia and the Middle Pleistocene in Global Perspective
GUEST EDITORS: Lynne A. Schepartz and Sari Miller-Antonio


Asia and the Middle Pleistocene in Global Perspective, 187
Lynne A. Schepartz and Sari Miller-Antonio


A Tribute to Jia Lanpo (1908–2001), 191
John W. Olsen

A Conversation with Huang Weiwen: Reflections on Asian Paleolithic Research, 197
Sari Miller-Antonio and Lynne A. Schepartz


Hominid Dispersals and Asian Biogeography during the Lower and Early Middle Pleistocene, c. 2.0–0.5 Mya, 205
Robin W. Dennell

This paper examines the environmental context of human dispersals into Asia up to 0.5 mya. These dispersals were probably intermittent, often discontinuous, and initially confined to warm grasslands and open woodlands across southern Asia. During the Early Pleistocene, the effects of the uplift of Tibet and the inception of the monsoon were muted by the low-amplitude nature of northern hemisphere glaciations. By the Middle Pleistocene, further uplift, stronger monsoonal circulation, and higher-amplitude, glacial-interglacial cycles made much of Southwest and Central Asia more arid than previously. Two other Mid-Pleistocene developments were important: first, the appearance of Acheulean assemblages, possibly as far east as southern China; and secondly, the first appearance of hominids at latitudes 40–45° N during interglacial episodes. Hominid dispersals in both Europe and Asia were probably broadly similar in that hominids did not habitually live beyond 40° N until c. 500 kya. Rather than dividing Asia longitudinally into areas east or west of the Movius line, latitudinal divisions between warm/hot and cool/cold environments might be more appropriate.
Keywords: hominid dispersals, colonization, Asia, monsoon, loess, Lower Pleistocene, Middle Pleistocene, ice ages, Movius Line.

Home Range Size in Middle Pleistocene China and Human Dispersal Patterns in Eastern and Central Asia, 227
Susan G. Keates

Home range size in Middle Pleistocene China can be explored based on various lines of evidence. This paper provides a brief review of home range size from the perspectives of raw material source distance and the geographic location of archaeological localities in the eastern half of China. In most cases, hominids exploited lithic materials for tool manufacture from sources close to their camps. This is indicative of small home range size in the Middle Pleistocene of this region. Hominid occupation of upland localities in the later Middle Pleistocene may reflect a larger home range than previously. In the wider geographic context, based on faunal dispersals, hominid morphology, and also with reference to some relevant ecological hypotheses, it is difficult to defend the idea of geographic isolation of Eastern Asia in the Pleistocene. Rather, it seems that hominid dispersal within Eurasia may have been a significant behavioral attribute contributing to the evolution and survival of Homo species.
Keywords: China, home range, dispersal.

Was the Emergence of Home Bases and Domestic Fire a Punctuated Event? A Review of the Middle Pleistocene Record in Eurasia, 248
Nicolas Rolland

The concept of a home-based land use strategy is fundamental for studying recent and prehistoric foraging populations. A proposed datum for the emergence of this behavior is set during later Middle Pleistocene times, around 400–350 kya, and temporally linked with the first established evidence for domestic fire making. Precise causes for this dual appearance remain obscure. Surveying the known Paleolithic record and contexts serves to identify possible factors and processes leading to this development. The emphasis here is on fire technology, particularly domestic fire making and uses, and fire’s relationship with home base sensu lato characteristics, as contrasted with a previous land use system that reflects earlier primate patterns. Intentional bush and grassland burning could be components of this home base and domestic fire system. The issue of domestic fire and home base at Locality 1 in Zhoukoudian Cave is evaluated from the perspective of contemporaneous hominid behavior in Eurasia and Africa.
Keywords: fire production, home bases, Middle Paleolithic, East and Southeast Asia, Zhoukoudian Locality 1.


Lithic Technological Variability of the Middle Pleistocene in the Eastern Nihewan Basin, Northern China, 281
Chen Shen and Wei Qi

Previous studies have generalized the technological character of the Lower Paleolithic of China with reference to its non-Acheulean features, but regional perspectives on technological variability were largely overlooked. This study examines two lithic assemblages from Middle Pleistocene sites in the Nihewan Basin in northern China: Cenjiawan and Maliang. Through applications of refitting analysis, technological analysis, and use-wear examinations, technological variability within these assemblages is assessed. The results reveal some aspects of lithic technology that were largely undocumented in Lower Paleolithic industries, such as intentional selection of high-quality raw materials, continuously rotating core reduction, and evidence for butchering/meat-processing tool use, suggesting that the Cenjiawan and Maliang lithic assemblages might represent regional and/or temporal variations of Lower Paleolithic industries in northern China. The data are compared to other Lower Paleolithic industries such as Xiaochangliang, Dongguotou, and Zhoukoudian (Localities 1 and 15).
Keywords: Lower Paleolithic, lithic technology, core reduction, refitting, use-wear.

Panxian Dadong, South China: Establishing a Record of Middle Pleistocene Climatic Changes, 302
Wang Wei, Liu Jun, Hou Yamei, Si Xinqiang, Huang Weiwen, Lynne A. Schepartz, and Sari Miller-Antonio

Broad-based reconstructions of the Middle Pleistocene Asian environment are valuable sources of information that can augment our understanding of prehistoric human adaptations and expansion into East Asia. The sediments, speleothems, and geochronology of Panxian Dadong Cave serve as an example of the possible integration of this broader paleoenvironmental information with more fine-grained archaeological data. The current U-series and ESR dating results for Dadong suggest that the early human activity in the cave began at least 260 kya and continued until around 142 kya. This period correlates with Oxygen Isotope Stages 7 through 6. The lower part of the breccia (Layer 2) contains very strongly weathered dark deposits, suggesting a relatively warm climatic period from 260–180 kya that corresponds to OIS 7, followed by a cooler phase with less speleothem formation corresponding to OIS 6. The Middle Pleistocene stratigraphic sequence in the Dadong cave deposits documents fluctuating and rapid changes in temperature and humidity that are also detected in general Asian, as well as South China, paleoclimatic studies based on diverse data ranging from microstratigraphic and geochemical sediment analyses to mollusk species representation.
Keywords: Middle Pleistocene, Asian paleoenvironment, stratigraphy, speleothem, Panxian Dadong, China.

Lithic Raw Material Use at the Late Middle Pleistocene Site of Panxian Dadong, 314
Sari Miller-Antonio, Lynne A. Schepartz, Panagiotis Karkanas, Hou Yamei, Huang Weiwen, and Deborah Bekken

The possibility of selective use of lithic raw material in the Middle Pleistocene cave deposits of Panxian Dadong is examined in order to evaluate hominid strategies of resource management. Limestone, chert, and basalt, available in or nearby the cave, were differentially used for the production of tools and unretouched flakes. Limestone was predominantly used to produce expedient tools, unretouched flakes were most commonly made of basalt, and chert was most frequently used to produce retouched flakes and tools. Patterns in the reduction sequence for each raw material also indicate that these lithic resources were selectively used. The early stages of core reduction are clearly represented in basalt flakes, whereas chert artifacts exhibit the later stages of tool production and the greatest degree of resharpening. When the selection of raw material is examined through time, over a span of more than 100,000 years, two patterns are clear. The proportion of chert and basalt and the overall frequency of artifacts increases. These changes in the frequency and selection of raw material occur without a techno-typological change. The major shifts in raw material usage correlate with a colder climatic regime and may relate to the intensified use of the cave for animal carcass processing and shelter.
Keywords: Middle Pleistocene, lithics, reduction sequence, hominid.

Taxonomic Abundance at Panxian Dadong, a Middle Pleistocene Cave in South China, 333
Deborah Bekken, Lynne A. Schepartz, Sari Miller-Antonio, Hou Yamei, and Huang Weiwen

The faunal assemblage from the site of Panxian Dadong provides evidence for a general continuity in species representation throughout a period of approximately 120 kya. Taxonomically, faunal material from Dadong includes classic taxa of the Middle Pleistocene Ailuropoda-Stegodon faunal complex of South China. Taxonomic abundance measures document a sample that is rich in large ungulate species including rhinoceros, stegodonts, and large bovids. These data are further examined in light of assemblage formation processes, temporal distribution, and environmental context. Taphonomic data that demonstrate the presence and activities of bone-collecting species (including porcupines, hominids, and large and small carnivores) suggest that Dadong Cave was an attractive shelter that saw many uses during the period analyzed. These include hominid foraging, porcupine bone collecting, and carnivore scavenging and hunting.
Keywords: Middle Pleistocene, South China, Ailuropoda-Stegodon fauna, hominid.


Acheulian Culture in Peninsular India: An Ecological Perspective by Raghunath S. Pappu, 360
Reviewed by Michael D. Petraglia

A Re-Examination of the Palaeolithic Archaeological Record of Northern Tamil Nadu, South India by Shanti Pappu, 362
Reviewed by Michael D. Petraglia

Sangiran: Man, Culture, and Environment in Pleistocene Times: Proceedings of the International Colloquium on Sangiran, Solo-Indonesia, 21–24 September 1998, Truman Simanjuntak, Bagyo Prasetyo, and Retno Handini, eds., 364
Reviewed by Mike Morwood


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