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Earliest presence of humans in northeast Asia


The timing of the earliest habitation and oldest stone technologies in different regions of the world remains a contentious topic in the study of human evolution1,2,3,4. Here we contribute to this debate with detailed magnetostratigraphic results on two exposed parallel sections of lacustrine sediments at Xiaochangliang in the Nihewan Basin, north China; these results place stringent controls on the age of Palaeolithic stone artifacts that were originally reported over two decades ago5. Our palaeomagnetic findings indicate that the artifact layer resides in a reverse polarity magnetozone bounded by the Olduvai and Jaramillo subchrons. Coupled with an estimated rate of sedimentation, these findings constrain the layer's age to roughly 1.36 million years ago. This result represents the age of the oldest known stone assemblage comprising recognizable types of Palaeolithic tool in east Asia, and the earliest definite occupation in this region as far north as 40° N.

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Figure 1: Location of the Xiaochangliang Palaeolithic site in the Nihewan Basin.
Figure 2: Examples of flaked stone artifacts excavated from Xiaochangliang.
Figure 3: Lithologic and magnetic susceptibility stratigraphy of Donggou (a) and Xiaochangliang (b) sections.
Figure 4: Determined magnetostratigraphy at Donggou (DG) and Xiaochangliang (XCL) and correlation with the geomagnetic polarity timescale21.


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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

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Correspondence to R. X. Zhu or K. A. Hoffman.

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Zhu, R., Hoffman, K., Potts, R. et al. Earliest presence of humans in northeast Asia. Nature 413, 413–417 (2001).

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