Science China Earth Sciences

, Volume 62, Issue 2, pp 403–411 | Cite as

The first ground tooth artifact in Upper Palaeolithic China

  • Yue ZhangEmail author
  • Shuangquan Zhang
  • Xing Gao
  • Fuyou Chen
Research Paper


Scholars have long recognized the importance of organic artifacts to an improved understanding of the economic and social behavior of Palaeolithic hominins. However, in contrast to archaeological studies in other parts of the world, osseous industries from China have received only limited attention. As one of the first steps aiming at tipping this balance, the current paper examines, therefore, a shaped boar tusk—one particular element of hunter-gatherers’ tool kit at Shuidonggou Locality 12 (SDG12). Morphological and metrical comparisons of the tusk with both paleontological specimens and bone artifacts from the same site demonstrate that wear pattern on one of the dentin surfaces of the tooth is not significant different from occlusal attritions in living animals, while linear striations on the other dentin facet are most probably artificial grinding marks formed by prehistoric toolmakers in attempts to manufacture a scraper. The tusk specimen from SDG12 represents the first evidence of a ground tooth in Upper Palaeolithic China. The current study indicates that hominins in Shuidonggou area had achieved a deepened understanding of physical properties of osseous material available in environs and ultimately broadened their range of raw material selection by adding a particular element to the inventory of subsistence tools.


Upper Palaeolithic Osseous artifacts Boar tusk Grinding Splitting Shuidonggou 


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We thank the anonymous reviewers for their constructive suggestions. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41772025), the Strategic Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. XDB26000000) and the Sino-French Cai Yuanpei Program (Grant No. 36707NF).


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yue Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Shuangquan Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Xing Gao
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Fuyou Chen
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and PaleoanthropologyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.CAS Center for Excellence in Life and PaleoenvironmentBeijingChina
  3. 3.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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