Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Movius Line Discredited By Acheulian Artifacts Found In Asia

[T]he Movius Line (Movius, 1948) over which no Acheulian artefacts were argued to occur in East Asia is no longer an appropriate concept for the Early Paleolithic of East and Southeast Asia and should be disregarded[.]
From here.

In 1948, it appeared from the archaeological record that Homo Erectus in Asia was completely technologically static. Advances in the design and construction of stone tools, called Acheulian technology, were found elsewhere, but not in Asia to the east of the "Movius Line".

But, new well dated Asian finds of Acheulian artifacts tell a different story. As the body text of the new paper explains:
Acheulian technology is characterized by bifacially and unifacially shaped tool types, such as handaxes, cleavers, picks and other large cutting tools (LCTs) (Isaac, 1969; Bar-Yosef and Goren-Inbar, 1993; Goren-Inbar et al., 2000; Semaw et al., 2009; Lepre et al., 2011; Beyene et al., 2013 ; Diez-MartĂ­n et al., 2015). Its appearance represents a technological advance over the preceding Oldowan technology, and is associated with innovative hominin cognitive and adaptive abilities (Goren-Inbar, 2011 ; Stout, 2011). Current thinking is that Acheulian technology originated in East Africa (possibly West Turkana, Kenya) at least 1.76 million years ago (Ma) (Lepre et al., 2011), that it became distributed somewhat widely across Africa (e.g., Vaal River Valley and Gona) at ∼1.6 Ma (Gibbon et al., 2009 ; Semaw et al., 2009), and then spread to the Levant at ∼1.4 Ma (Bar-Yosef and Goren-Inbar, 1993), South Asia at 1.5–1.1 Ma (Pappu et al., 2011), and Europe at 1.0–0.9 Ma (Scott and Gibert, 2009 ; VallverdĂș et al., 2014) (Fig. 1). The 0.8–0.9 Ma Acheulian stone stools from South and central China (Hou et al., 2000 ; de Lumley and Li, 2008) (Fig. 1) suggest that Acheulian technology arose in China at least during the terminal Early Pleistocene. However, there are only a few sites with in situ Acheulian artefacts from North China with ages ranging from the late Mid-Pleistocene to the Late Pleistocene ( Wang et al., 2014 ; Yang et al., 2014) (Fig. 1). Thus, it remains enigmatic as to how early Acheulian technology can be traced back in North China, compared with its Early Pleistocene occurrence in South and central China. 
Sanmenxia Basin (also Sanmen area), which lies on the southeastern Loess Plateau, is a rich source of stone artefacts and is an important area for understanding the early human occupation of North China (Jia et al., 1961; Huang, 1964; Jia, 1985 ; Li, 1990). The first Early Pleistocene Paleolithic site in China, that is the Xihoudu site dated at 1.4–1.27 Ma (Zhu et al., 2003 ; Kong et al., 2013), was found in northwestern Sanmenxia Basin (Fig. 1) in 1961–1962 (Jia, 1985). In 1963, 128 stone artefacts were found from 6 localities in eastern Sanmenxia Basin (Huang, 1964). Among the 128 artefacts, 94 were from the Shuigou and Huixinggou sites (Huang, 1964). At that time the chronology of the Chinese loess-paleosol sequence was not yet established; a tentative Mid-Pleistocene age was suggested for the lithic assemblage based on lithostratigraphic arguments (Huang, 1964). Furthermore, when these artefacts were discovered, consensus was that Acheulian handaxes and cleavers were lacking in East Asia during the period when they flourished in Africa and western Eurasia (Movius, 1948). Therefore, the handaxe and cleavers from the Shuigou and Huixinggou sites (Fig. 2) were not recognized and reported as Acheulian artefacts; instead, they were considered to represent different kinds of choppers that are indicative of a chopper-chopping tool industry (Huang, 1964; Huang, 1987; Huang, 1993 ; Lin, 1992).
This matters because it gives us a detailed assessment in time and space of the range of Homo Erectus and of the spread of a new kind of lithic tool technology by this archaic hominin species. It also suggests that Asian Homo Erectus was more plastic mentally than early estimates supported by the now disprove Movius Line theory suggested. The paper is: 

Xingwen Li, et al. "Early Pleistocene occurrence of Acheulian technology in North China" 156 Quaternary Science Reviews 12-22 (2017).

Another PLOS paper along the same lines is also noted at Linear Population Model.

The Movius Line was previously discussed at this blog in 2011.

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