Innovation in bone technology and artefact types in the late Upper Palaeolithic of China: Insights from Shuidonggou Locality 12

Publication date: May 2018Source:Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 93
Author(s): Shuangquan Zhang, Luc Doyon, Yue Zhang, Xing Gao, Fuyou Chen, Ying Guan, Francesco d’Errico
Information on Palaeolithic bone technology from China is sparse. Here we present the results of a techno-functional analysis of a bone tool assemblage recovered from Shuidonggou Locality 12 (SDG12), layer 11, Northern China, dated to c. 12-11 cal ka BP. Six bone tool artefact types are identified: wedges, awls, spear points, a knife handle, a possible sewing implement, and a notched carpal. Two other artefacts could not be attributed to a specific type. The artefacts are made of Procapra przewalsikii, Lepus sp., Sus sp., Equus przewalskii, and unidentifiable bone fragments from medium/large size mammals. At least three methods are used to extract blanks: percussion of altered limb bones, longitudinal splitting of Sus sp. canine and large rib, and probably, the groove-and-splinter technique. Grinding and scraping are the dominant shaping techniques together with grooving, notching, polishing, drilling, flaking, and retouching. Tool type variability and function fit the hypothesis according to which the SDG12 and similar sites would be residential camps in which hunter-gatherers produced artefacts enabling them to cope with cold environmental conditions. Our results, however, indicate that not all bone tools match the expectations associated with a serial specialist production. Expedient wedges and awls may have been produced by any member of the group, and whenever the need arose. The SDG12 bone tool assemblage provides a significant contribution to our knowledge about hunter-gatherer adaptations to the Tardiglacial environments of Northern China.

Graphical abstract