Excavations at Xiamabei, a well-preserved Palaeolithic site in Nihewan Basin of northern China, have found the earliest known evidence of ochre-processing in east Asia.
Pieces of ochre, a slab covered with ochre stains, and a set of 382 stone tools dating back some 40,000 years were found at the site.
The stone tools show complex technologies, such as miniaturisation and hafting, while analysis of the ochre suggests that different types were brought to Xiamabei and then processed to create powders with different colours and consistencies, according to new research published in Nature by a team from the Hebei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, and the University of Bordeaux.
Around this time, Homo sapiens had arrived in northern Asia, yet the cultural make-up of Xiamabei is unlike those of sites associated with the expansion of Homo sapiens. The study suggests that the site may represent an early colonisation attempt by modern humans.