Paleosol stable isotope evidence for early hominid occupation of East Asian temperate environments

Hong Wang, Stanley H. Ambrose, Chao Li Jack Liu, Leon R. Follmer

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Hominids left Africa and occupied mainland Asia by 1.8 myr ago. About 1.15 myr ago Homo erectus and an associated Stegodon-Ailuropoda fauna migrated from subtropical China across the Qinling Mountains into the temperate Loess Plateau. This migration may be an evolutionary milestone in human adaptability because it may represent the first occupation of a nontropical environment. Loess-paleosol stable isotope ratios from the last interglacial-glacial cycle provide comparative data for reconstructing the hominid paleoenvironments. The climate during Gongwangling hominid occupation about 1.15 myr ago was influenced by both Siberian-Mongolian winter and Indian summer monsoon systems characterized as a cold/cool, dry winter and warm/mild, semihumid summer and fall. The Gongwangling hominids preyed mainly on warm-climate-adapted animals such as Stegodon-Ailuropoda fauna, suggesting a warm season occupation. The stable isotope ratios also indicate that the Chenjiawo hominids occupied an environment similar to that of the Gongwangling about 650,000 yr ago. The associated fauna, with a mixture of forest and steppe, warm-and cold/cool-climate-adapted animal assemblage's, suggests a permanent occupation by this time. Thus, the reliable earliest and permanent occupation of temperate environments may have occurred 150,000 yr earlier in eastern Asia rather than in Europe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)228-238
Number of pages11
JournalQuaternary Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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