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Earliest bone engraving with ochre incisions discovered in China
Date:2019-07-10  Source:Xinhua

Chinese archeologists have discovered two engraved bones with ochre incisions dating back 110,000 years, giving the world's earliest evidence for human beings' deliberate use of ochre engravings for symbolic purposes.

The animal bones were discovered at the Lingjing site in Xuchang, central China's Henan Province, where Chinese researchers had found human cranial fossils dating back 105,000 to 125,000 years ago, and named the hominids "Xuchang Man."

Li Zhanyang, the lead expert in the engraved bone discovery and research team and professor of the Institute of Cultural Heritage under Shandong University, said the production of abstract engravings is considered an indicator of modern human cognition, which led to the development of symbols, drawings, language, math and art.

He said one of the bones has clear seven engraved lines with the presence of a red residue. Based on experimental reproduction and subsequent microscopic analysis, the researchers found the sequential marks were made with different tools and motions. But they have not been able to decipher the meaning of the marks.

"More than 30,000 bone fragments have been unearthed from the site in the continuous excavations since 2005. But I had seen none with such engravings before the finding," said Li.

He said the cut marks were produced by an extremely sharp point and were engraved on weathered rather than fresh bones.

A paper on the study was published by Antiquity, a peer-reviewed journal of world archaeology on Monday.

The research team extended special thanks to Francois-Xavier Le Bourdonnec, known for his research on early bone engravings in South Africa, for his references on the engraved bones in Xuchang.

Li said the Xuchang bone engraving is 40,000 years older than the finding in South Africa. No potential relation between the two has been found. 

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