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Evidence from the Dayao Paleolithic site, Inner Mongolia for human migration into arid northwest China during mid-Pleistocene interglacials

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 March 2021

Junyi Ge*
Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China CAS Center for Excellence in Life and Paleoenvironment, Beijing, China University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
Yinghua Wang
Inner Mongolia Museum, Hohhot, China
Mingchao Shan
Inner Mongolia Museum, Hohhot, China
Xingwu Feng
Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
Fuyou Chen
Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
Haibin Wu
CAS Center for Excellence in Life and Paleoenvironment, Beijing, China University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China Key Laboratory of Cenozoic Geology and Environment, Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
Qin Li
Key Laboratory of Cenozoic Geology and Environment, Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
Xinying Zhou
Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China CAS Center for Excellence in Life and Paleoenvironment, Beijing, China University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
Yan Li
School of Ocean Sciences, China University of Geosciences (Beijing), Beijing, China
Ruiping Tang
University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
John W. Olsen
Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China School of Anthropology, University of Arizona, Tucson, USA
Chenglong Deng
University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China State Key Laboratory of Lithospheric Evolution, Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
Xing Gao
Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China CAS Center for Excellence in Life and Paleoenvironment, Beijing, China University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
*Corresponding author: (J. Ge)


The Dayao Paleolithic site, located in Inner Mongolia on the eastern margin of China's vast northwestern drylands, was a lithic quarry-workshop utilized by Pleistocene human migrants through the region. Determining the age of this activity has previously yielded controversial results. Our magnetostratigraphic and OSL dating results suggest the two artifact-bearing paleosols are correlated with MIS 5 and 7, respectively. Correlating paleoclimatic data with marine δ18O records leads us to conclude that two sandy gravel layers containing many artifacts in the lower part of the Dayao sequence were formed during MIS 9 and 11, if not earlier. Our results reveal that the earliest human occupation at the Dayao site occurred before ca. 400 ka during a relatively warm and moist interglacial period, similar to several subsequent occupations, documenting the earliest and northernmost archaeological assemblage yet reported in China's arid northwest. We conclude that the northward and southward displacements of the East Asian summer monsoon rain belt during past interglacial-glacial cycles were responsible for the discontinuous human occupation detected at the Dayao site. The penetration of this precipitation regime into dryland ecologies via the Huanghe (Yellow River) Valley effectively created a corridor for hominin migration into China's arid northwest.

Thematic Set: Eurasian Climate and Environment
Copyright © University of Washington. Published by Cambridge University Press, 2021

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