Ma'anshan cave and the origin of bone tool technology in China
Zhang et al
Here we present the results of a techno-functional analysis of 17 bone tools recovered from strata 6, 5 and 3 of the Palaeolithic site of Ma'anshan Cave, Guizhou Province, southern China. Stratum 6, dated to c. 35 cal kyr BP, has yielded three sharp awls. From Stratum 5, dated to c. 34 cal kyr BP, come six probable spear points, awls and a cutting tool. Separated from these layers by a sterile horizon, Stratum 3, dated 23 cal kyr BP to 18 cal kyr BP, has yielded barbed points of two types. Bone tools were shaped by scraping, grinding, and in strata 5 and 3, finished by polishing. Ma'anshan Cave records the oldest formal bone tools from China, and amongst the oldest known evidence of indisputable barbed point manufacture outside Africa. Change in the hunting toolkit between strata 5 and 3 may indicate a shift in prey preference from medium to small size mammals and fish, which needs to be verified by supplementary analyses. The significance of this evidence is discussed in the context of what is known about the origin of bone tool technology in Africa and Eurasia.