China and Mongolia

In October, Thibaut went on a field trip to China and Mongolia to collect new samples for PalaeoChron. He first visited the Jilin University located in Changchun, the capital city of Jilin Province in Northeast China. Jílín Dàxué is a leading national research university that is also one of the most prestigious "Top 10" universities in China and the Center for Chinese Frontier Archaeology hosts the second top archaeology department in the country and national-level laboratory facilities. Thibaut gave a talk entitled "New methods for sample preparation prior to radiocarbon dating – Application to Middle-Upper Palaeolithic sites" to staff and students in the Archaeology department. He also visited the Archaeology Museum of the University which is hosting important Palaeolithic and Neolithic collections. These collections include material excavated by, or in collaboration with, the researcher of the Research Center for Chinese Frontier Archaeology of Jilin University.

Thibaut sampled bones from 4 Chinese Palaeolithic sites that have not been dated yet. His trip in the Jilin province was concluded with a visit to several archaeological sites including the Xianrendong site in Huadian City, Jilin Province.

Top left: Sampling bones from Xianrendong-Fusong

Top right: Visit to Xiarendong-Huadian cave with Xu Ting (archaeologist specialist on Palaeolithic), Pauline Sebillaud (Researcher at the CNRS and lecturer at Jilin University), Wang Jifeng (Director of the Huadian Archaeology Museum)

Following this, Thibaut travelled to Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) to meet colleagues at the Institute of History and Archaeology, Mongolian Academy of Sciences. The institute is in charge of coordinating and supervising ongoing excavations in Mongolia as well as post-excavation studies. The institute also hosts collections of important fossil remains including the skull from the Palaeolithic site of Salkhit which we were able to sample for dating and DNA analysis. This skull was discovered in 2006 by a mining company and was brought to the attention of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences. No chronometric dating has been published yet, and suggested dates range from early Middle Pleistocene to terminal Late Pleistocene. The archaic features of the skull fragment have led to a potential affiliation with archaic hominin species. If it is indeed Homo erectus or archaic Homo sapiens, the skull would highlight a much earlier spread of hominins further north and inland Asia than previously thought.

Top left: the Salkhit skull.

Top right: Professor Shuisheng Du standing in front of the monument erected where the Xiachuan site was discovered.

Finally, back in China, Thibaut met with Shuisheng Du who is Professor in archaeology at the Beijing Normal University. They travelled to Xiachuan in the Shanxi province. Several archaeological excavations have been undertaken over the last decades and revealed abundant late Palaeolithic remains including stone artefacts (mainly microlithic), broken animal bones and charcoals. The meeting with Shuisheng Du was also an opportunity to sample material from the Longquan cave (Lunchuan county, Henan Province). This site was discovered by the Luanchuan Cultural Relics Administrative Institute, and a systematic investigation was conducted in 2011 by a joint archaeological team from Beijing Normal University and Luoyang city. During the excavations, stone artefacts, animal bones were uncovered, as well as a unique bone point.

We hope that all these samples collected thanks to the very helpful collaboration of our colleagues in China and Mongolia will help us to improve our understanding of the dispersion of anatomically modern humans across Asia.

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