The onset of Late Paleolithic in North China: An integrative review of the Shuidonggou site complex, China
Shuidonggou (SDG) attracts scholars who are interested in Late Paleolithic of China, even east Asia, from generation to generation since 1923 when rich lithic artifacts and animal fossils were discovered at locality 1. During the past almost one century, many excavations have been conducted by different institutes at different localities of SDG. Numerous data has been obtained and tens of thousands of artifacts were yielded. The understanding of nature and context of SDG is increasing gradually with the repeated excavation and in-depth research. The present paper reviewed the formal excavations and achievements in SDG. Especially, a series investigations and excavations since 2002 have been emphasized. After this long-term fieldwork, the geographic range of SDG has extended far beyond the range suggested by previous findings. The presence of discrete cultural horizons at various SDG localities indicate repeated use and occupation of the area by early human groups between 50-10 kya with a gap in LGM. During the repeated occupations, diverse and complex behaviors including gathering various plants, heat treatment preparation for knapping, making ornaments, engraving were identified using different kinds of methods and techniques by scholars. Paleoenvironmental reconstruction based on pollen analysis suggests that late Pleistocene/early Holocene human utilization of the SDG area occurred primarily around 32-24 kya and 13-11 kya when climatic conditions were more favorable. Years of excavations and researches make progress with nature of SDG. However, the issues about Initial Upper Paleolithic assemblages in SDG, origin/disappearance of Levallois-like technology in China are still open to debate. Further excavation and research at SDG1 will clarify these issues.