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Prehistoric Times

Bountiful archaeological findings point to the existence of primitive people and culture beyond the reach of written history. These findings suggest that there had been Homo erectus living in China as early as more than a million years ago.

The prehistoric times is popularly divided according to the different tools invented and used by people into two periods: the Paleolithic Age and the Neolithic Age.

Yuanmou Man (living 1.7 million years ago), Lantian Man (1.1~0.7 million years ago) and Peking Man (500,000 years ago) are the earliest Paleolithic human habitations that archaeologists have yet discovered, followed by Upper Cave Man a bit later (200,000~100,000 years ago). Humans of this period inhabited caves, use simple stone tools, and started using fire. Excavations at Xihoudu (Shanxi Province) suggest the earliest recorded use of fire by Homo erectus, which is dated 1.27 million years ago.
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Yuanmou Man, the earliest Homo erectus ever found in China. A Youman Man Museum has been built in the county of Yuanmou, Yunnan.

Primitive humans boring through wood to get fire. Xihoudu excavations record the earliest recorded use of fire in human history. Xihoudu was one of the sources of Olympic flame at Beijing Olympics, 2008.

The famous Peking Man

Compared with the Paleolithic Age, the Neolithic (starting from somewhere between 12,000 and 10,000 BC ) is more advanced, which can also be divided into three sections: early, middle, and late. The early Neolithic Age is represented by Peiligang Culture (Xinzheng, Henan), where people lived in matriarchal clan communities and there was no social stratification among the members. Early agriculture was radiocarbon-dated to about 7,000 BC. The middle Neolithic Age represented by Yangshao Culture (ca. 5000~3000 BC) saw the transition from the matriarchal to the patriarchal clan community system, as productivity advanced to a conspicuously higher level. Traces of pottery, millet agriculture, fishing and hunting, gathering, and stock breeding were found in Yangshao Culture. The late Neolithic Age is represented by Longshan Culture (ca. 3000~2000 BC). Agriculture and stock breeding developed to a more advanced stage. Private ownership of property appeared, widening the rich-poor gap, and the community was a patriarchal clan system. Fortune telling was prevalent and bronze implements probably had been developed.
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A stone mill excavated at Peiligang Relics Site, implying that agriculture had developed in central China by the early Neolithic Age.

Painted pottery is one prime feature of Yangshao Culture.

Jade decorations in Longshan Culture. The primitive people have developed their own aesthetic awareness.



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