The Types of Tools and the Raw Materials

Caves formed by percolating groundwater in limestone, referred to as "karst" (from a Serbo-Croatian word describing such areas along the Dalmatian coast), are very poor sources for the sort of crystalline rocks that make good stone artifacts. The hominids at Longgushan thus had to bring raw materials for tools in from afar. Many seem to have come from the river gravels of the Ba'er (or Zhoukou) River. Others were apparently picked up by hominids walking farther afield.

Wenzhong Pei, the veteran researcher, and a colleague, Senshui Zhang, in 1985 described some 17,000 stone artifacts from the Longgushan excavations. They reported that some 44 different types of stone were used as raw materials, but by far the largest number (89 percent) were made from quartz. Zdansky had seen broken shards of quartz in his quarrying but he had thrown them out, considering them pieces naturally eroding from the quartz veins in the cave walls. Pei collected isolated flakes of quartz in 1929 and 1930, but it was not until 1931 that an abundance of stone tools was recognized and named the "Quartz Horizon 2" in the eastern part of Longgushan. These artifacts were found in association with hominid fossils in Locus G, and with ash-like layers of sediments thought at the time to be remnants of hominid fire.4

The first widely recognized stone artifacts at Longgushan were found in the part of the deposit that is termed "Gezitang" or Pigeon Hall. It is the east-facing artificial opening made by early bone miners and is close to what is thought to have been the original opening of the Longgushan cave when Homo erectus was there. The 1931 discovery by Pei of many clear and

Ancient Stone Tool For Cutting
The most common stone tools at Longgushan Locality 1 are small, sharp flakes of quartz, several of which are shown here. These tools were used to cut meat off bone and for other purposes requiring finer cutting than chopping tools allow.

unambiguous artifacts was taken by some researchers to indicate that there was a higher density of artifacts near the old entrance of the cave than in the areas farther back from the cave mouth. While such an idea seems to make sense, because hominids would have had natural light near the front of the cave for their implement-related activities, it is difficult to demonstrate. Excavation techniques prior to 1934 had not focused on recovery of artifactual remains, and surviving excavation data are just too sparse to show this type of distribution of artifacts. What reliable data have survived show that artifacts are quite uniformly spread throughout the vertical extent of the Longgushan deposit.

Chopping Tool
A large chopping tool made from stream-rounded quartz cobble discovered at Longgushan Locality 1. Such heavy stone tools were likely used by Homo erectus to dismember animal carcasses.

In 1932 Pei began a collaboration on the archaeology of Longgushan with Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Teilhard was a widely respected, globetrotting Jesuit geologist and prehistorian who was allowed by the Catholic Church to pursue research for some 20 years in China. He had also been in England for the Piltdown Man "discoveries," and before that had worked in the famous archaeological caves of southern France. He now worked for the Geological Survey of China in the capacity of a consultant. Pei and Teilhard examined all the archaeological finds up to that point from the cave and concluded that there were three "cultural zones" preserved at Longgushan.5 The oldest and most primitive was "Zone C," found in the lowest parts of the excavation. "Zone B" was above that in the excavation, particularly at Locus H, and was typified by hominids' use of better raw materials, such as chert (flint), for the artifacts, and by better techniques of chipping and forming the tools. The highest level was poorly represented in the excavation but was presumed to be the most advanced. This work established the basis for the excavations, now with a much more archaeological bent, that Pei carried out between 1933 and 1938 at Longgushan Localities 4, 13, 15, and the Upper Cave.

In an overview of the archaeology, Teilhard wrote in 1941 that the "rich lithic industry of Choukoutien" could be divided into two parts: a much larger part of small, quartz flakes, which he described as "splinters of crushed vein-quartz pebbles"; and a less numerous component made up of larger tools, many made from the relatively poor raw material of sandstone— "entire pebbles or boulders, retouched in an elementary way."6 We might think of these as the ancestors of the penknife, scalpel, and paring knife on the one hand, and the machete, ax, and cleaver on the other. Interestingly, the latter component did not contain any of the tear-shaped, bifacially flaked hand axes that were known from the earliest archaeological levels of Europe. And the assemblage of tools certainly did not contain anything like the sophisticated scrapers, awls, burins, and blades that European archaeologists had discovered in association with early Homo sapiens. Teilhard concluded, "in contrast with the already 'steaming' West, early Pleistocene Asia seems to have represented (on account of its marginal geographical position) a quiet and conservative corner amidst the fast evolving human world."7 We will return to the important behavioral implications of two components of the stone tools below.

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