Earliest Paleolithic Age site excavated in Sichuan Province
Published: Nov 21, 2023 01:09 AM
Photo: Screenshot from webiste

The Tanguan Mountain site in Meishan city, Southwest China's Sichuan Province Photo: Screenshot from webiste 

The Tanguan Mountain site in Meishan city, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, has been recognized as the Chengdu Plain's earliest Paleolithic age site, with a history going back more than 200,000 years. 

Tanguan Mountain is a mesa located at the river bank of the local Min River's tributary called the Li Quan River. A large number of stone artifacts have been unearthed at the site, showing "proof of the Shu people's early Paleolithic lifestyle," cultural expert Xu Shuming told the Global Times. 

Qu Fulin, an expert on Paleolithic age archaeology, told the Global Times that ancient tools like "stone cores and stone flakes" were common at the Tanguan Mountain site.

"Taking the stone flakes as an example, they were made by ancient people using tools like hardwood and animal horns. A good stone flake has a sharp edge that people could use to cut things up, just like a knife," Qu told the Global Times. The "stone core" was what was left when the flakes were detached from the larger piece of stone. 

An archeological project began at the site in 2020. Following the excavation, over 500 stone relics have been unearthed so far. The discoveries have made the site the area's most prominent and also earliest example of the Paleolithic Age. 

Sun Qian, director of the Cultural Heritage Bureau of the Dongpo district of Meishan, said that with the help of luminescence dating methods, local experts were able to identify that the oldest stratum in the Tanguan Mountain site hides stone relics that are "around 200,000 years old." 

"Most of the stone artifacts unearthed at the Tanguan Mountain site are made of gravel from southern China," Sun said. 

Paleoanthropologist Zou Hesi told the Global Times that through analyzing the artifacts from the site, a survival mode for ancient humans in this area can be identified, enriching the knowledge of China's Paleolithic Age history. 

Covering a total of 18,810 square kilometers, the Chengdu Plain covers a wide range of cities in Sichuan Province such as Chengdu, Leshan, Meishan and Deyang.

Other than Paleolithic Age remains, ash pits of the Neolithic period, tombs of the Han (206BC-AD220), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties and even a kiln for porcelain were also found at the Tanguan Mountain site. 

"Such discoveries provide a clue, revealing the continuity of Chinese cultural civilization's development," Qu told the Global Times. 

To look deeper into the Tanguan Mountain site and its surrounding historical culture, Chen Wei, the lead archaeologist of the Tanguan Mountain project has carried out a survey of prehistoric sites in the Meishan and Leshan regions ever since the site was discovered in 2019. A total of 104 Paleolithic sites have been found, containing diverse types of stone relics like stone cores and thin-edged axes. 

In order to protect the site, the Meishan local authorities started constructing supporting facilities in 2023. There are also plans to build an archaeological site park named after the Tanguan Mountain site.