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Journeys in Time 2010-08-03 Ancient history in the Hetao Area Part 1- An age old secret

08-03-2010 17:01 BJT



Hetao is a region on the upper reaches of the Yellow River in Northwestern China. The Yellow River, when it reaches Inner Mongolia, finds its way blocked by the Helan Mountains. So, the river turns northward. Two other ranges, the Yin Mountains and the Taihang Mountains, force the river to make two further major changes of course. The result – evident if you look at a map – is that the Yellow River describes the shape of a gigantic tree stump. The area of land that lies within this tree stump is called Hetao, which literally means "bend " or "meander". It’s a place that has long been of interest to scientists, principally because of the vast quantities of dinosaur bones and animal fossils it has yielded. Moreover, the discovery of ancient stoneware reveals that primitive human life was also present in the area in the late Paleolithic Period.  

In 1988, a joint Sino-Canadian scientific expedition began a three-year excavation in the Bain Manduhu(巴音满都户) area. The scientists discovered the remains of 13 species of dinosaur, along with the fossils of alligators, turtles and several other creatures. It has been described as the most important dinosaur fossil find in the second half of the 20th century, anywhere in the world.  

The Salawusu (萨拉乌苏)River in Inner Mongolia follows a U-shaped valley that winds across the Maowusu(毛乌素) Desert at the southern tip of the Ordos Grassland. In 1922, two French explorers – Emile Licent, a priest and geologist, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a paleontologist – discovered the fossilized front tooth of a child in the valley. It was later named “The Erdos Tooth” by Canadian anthropologist Davidson Black. The tooth for the first time proved the presence of human life in Hetao 30 to 60 thousand years ago.


Since the discovery of Hetao Man in the 1920s, scientists have conducted numerous archaeological and geological investigations in the area. To date, they have uncovered ten sites with significant fossil deposits, extending along a 40-kilometres stretch of the Salawusu River. A total of 600 fossils and stone tools have been found, of which 200 are now housed at the Natural History Museum in Paris. Although not as sophisticated as other pieces from the early Neolithic Period, the Hetao stoneware is nevertheless highly significant. It reveals distinct similarities with finds from the Peking Man site, which suggests the existence of close links between Hetao culture and the culture of the Central China.

Editor:James |Source: CNTV

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