Over 6,000 stone-age artifacts prove humans lived on Tibetan Plateau 130,000 year ago

Acheulean hand axes unearthed from the Piluo site in Daocheng county. (Photo courtesy: China Daily)

(TibetanReview.net, Sep29’21) – China has announced at a press conference on Sep 27 that it had discovered more than 6,000 stone and earthen artifacts at the Piluo site in Daocheng (Tibetan: Dabpa) County located in what is now part of its Sichuan province, suggesting humans had settled there some 130,000 years ago, reported China’s official ecns.cn and chinadaily.com.cn Sep 28.

The discoveries were stated to include Acheulean hand axes. Acheulean tools refer to Lower Paleolithic culture (or early stone age, dating from around 1.5 million to 150,000 years ago) originating in Africa and typified by bifacial tools with round cutting edges. First found in France, this type of relic is generally considered by scholars to represent the highest level of tool manufacturing at the time.

Piluo is the largest known, best preserved archaeological site from the Paleolithic period on the Tibetan Plateau, chinadaily.com.cn cited China’s National Cultural Heritage Administration as saying at a news conference on Sep 27.

Experts were cited as saying the Acheulean hand axes were a great new find of academic and social-political significance worldwide.

The Piluo site was found in May 2020, with archaeological excavation formally beginning in April. Newly unearthed artifacts thus became the world’s highest-altitude finding-at 3,750 meters above sea level-of Acheulean tools, the report said.

“It’s still a new finding, and we’ve just touched the tip of an iceberg,” Chen Xingcan, head of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Archaeology, has said. “We have no idea how many discoveries will be made within such a huge site.”

Archaeological investigation was stated to indicate that the Piluo site covered more than 1 square kilometer, including 60 heritage spots, with only 200 square meters having been excavated thus far.

“They’re so far the most exquisite and most complete Acheulean tools in East Asia,” Zheng Zhexuan, an archaeologist with the Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute, has said. The findings “also filled a gap of academic research to indicate how human beings migrated and thus brought cultural communication during that ancient time”.

He has also said finding the hand axes on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau offered crucial clues for the study of early humans’ ability to conquer the harsh natural environment and the beginning of human settlements on the plateau.

The report noted that Tuesday (Sep 28) marked the first anniversary of Party General Secretary Xi Jinping’s delivery of the keynote speech at the 23rd group study session of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee. It said Xi had emphasized the significance of archaeological studies to better explore unknown parts of Chinese history and reveal the origins of the country’s various cultures.


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