According to Li Zhanyang, a researcher with Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, an excavation team at the Xuchang ruins recently found from the soil strata dating back 15,000 years ~ the late Paleolithic Era ~ more than 20 pieces of hematite, one of iron oxides commonly used as a dyestuff, alongside three dozen thin instruments made of animal tooth enamel, plus seven needles made of the upper cheek tooth enamel of a rhinoceros sub-species now extinct.
It is the first time in China that iron oxide of such high concentration has been excavated from the ruins of the late Paleolithic Era, said Li. "Through excavation, we are confident that these hematite were deliberately brought to the Xuchang ruins from afar by ancient people, as Xuchang does not produce such minerals."
The Xuchang ruins made headlines in foreign media in January when Chinese archaeologists found a human skull dating back at least 80,000 years in the ruins.
"I believe the people who lived there might have used hematite to dye clothes, which was quite different from Upper Cave Man at Zhoukoudian of Beijing who used hematite as a sacrifice to the dead, or from Europe, where ancient people there used hematite to draw cave murals."
Li said lab work proved the thin instruments made of animal tooth enamel might have be used as articles similar to buttons in present times.
"There has been evidence suggesting people dating back 15,000 years could have made advanced fur apparel. If that is true, the most popular color might have been red," said the Chinese archaeologist.
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