Environmental reconstruction and dating of Shizitan 29, Shanxi Province: An early microblade site in north China
Global cooling during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) posed significant challenges to peoples living in northern Eurasia. Using micromorphology, pollen and non-pollen palynomorphs (NPP), and faunal analyses, this study reconstructs the local paleoenvironmental contexts of repeated ephemeral occupations at Shizitan 29 in Shanxi Province, North China, across the LGM, from ca. 28 to 18 Ka cal BP, followed by a gap until a final occupation ca.13.5 Ka cal BP. Among the significant finds at Shizitan 29 are remains of 285 hearths and a rich lithic assemblage that contains the earliest radiocarbon-dated evidence for microblades in China, appearing first in Layer 7. The environmental data show that the low mountains and tributary river valleys of the Yellow River in the Loess Plateau provided abundant sources of water and food in spite of environmental fluctuations. Microblade-producing groups repeatedly visiting this locality survived severe climate change by making use of fire, selective herbivore hunting, processing plant foods with grinding stones, and symbolic ornamentation such as ostrich shell beads. NPP data also indicate the potential presence of flax and other fiber processing. The Shizitan 29 data demonstrate how humans adapted to challenging local conditions throughout the LGM, allowing them to stay within this northerly region without migrating to warmer southern latitudes.