Collection Description

Tradition Name

North China Upper Paleolithic

Tradition Description

The North China Upper Paleolithic Tradition is located in China north of the Qinling Huaihe Line and on the Korean Peninsula. It occurred from 40,000–8500 BP. The people were mobile hunter-gatherers, with some exploitation of Pleistocene megafauna. They created stone and bone tools; the use of microlithic technology was widespread after 20,000 BP. Neolithic traits such as pottery and domesticated millet appear during the last third of the tradition.


Select the Tradition Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Asia --East Asia



North Korea

South Korea

OWC Code


Number of Documents


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Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF Archaeology collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and title where necessary.

The North China Upper Paleolithic Tradition is located in China north of the Qinling Huaihe Line and on the Korean Peninsula, and dates from 40,000–8500 BP. Many overview documents in the eHRAF collection cover China as a whole, though mainly the major eastern river basins while vast Northeast China receives little attention and the Koreas get only brief mention. Due to broad comparative perspectives, uncertainties in dating and what defines a diagnostic microlithic assemblage (especially regarding the localities of the site of Salawusu), or a focus on the development of agriculture and ceramics, many documents range partly into the earlier Paleolithic and/or subsequent Neolithic periods.

Overviews of the North China Upper Paleolithic Tradition (or microlithic tradition) can be found in: Chen and Olsen (1990); Gai (1985); and Jia and Huang (1985 "The Late Paleolithic of China", 1985 "On the Recognition of China's Palaeolithic Cultural Traditions"). Bar-Yosef (2014) presents a wide-ranging assessment of stone tool technologies. Han and Xu (1985) describe Pleistocene faunal assemblages. Wu and Zhang (1985) discuss human remains found at multiple sites in China. Lu (1999) and Liu and Chen (2012) survey the evidence for the rise of agriculture.

Many documents provide brief descriptions of multiple sites (e.g. Chen and Olsen 1990; Jia and Huang 1985 “The Late Paleolithic of China”; Liu and Chen 2012). Chen (1984) additionally types the micro-cores found at the sites and Lu (1998) compares the different microblade traditions found across much of China. Hou et al. (2013) concentrate on four sites in North China. Madsen et al. (1996) consider the implications of a regional survey.

The following documents report on excavations of particular sites, some with specialized analyses: Huang and Hou (2003); Jia, Gai, and You (1972) include faunal analysis; Miller-Antonio (1992); Nian et al. (2014) utilize optical luminescence dating; The Ningxia Hui Museum (1987); Song et al. (2016) experiment with recreating the process of making bone needles; Wang and Olsen (1985); Wang et al. (2015) note the presence of ceramics and faunal remains; Yang et al. (2012) and Yang et al. (2014) recover starch grains as evidence of domesticated plants, including from pottery used in their processing.

For further information on individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Guibei – “tortoise back” or keeled scrapers

Jianzhuangqi – pointed stone tools fashioned from flakes

Kuanshen – wide-bodied jianzhuangqi (pointed stone tools)

Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) – marine oxygen-isotope stages, with warm periods represented by odd numbers, starting from the present-day MIS 1. The North China Upper Paleolithic began during MIS 3 that dates from 57,000-29,000 BP.

Mobang – elongated handstone used with a stone slab (mopan) to grind food – use "FOOD PREPARATION (252)" with "GENERAL TOOLS (412)"

Mopan – stone slab used with a handstone (mobang) to grind food – use "FOOD PREPARATION (252)" with "GENERAL TOOLS (412)"

Panxing – plate-shaped stone flakes

Shexing – tongue-shaped jianzhuangqi (pointed stone tools) Doc 13: 2 times, 412 – 2

Sidaogou – erosional gully; use "TOPOGRAPHY AND GEOLOGY (133)"

Suoxing – shuttle-shaped jianzhuangqi (pointed stone tools)

Yuxingqi – cylindrical, flat-bottomed ceramic pots – use "CERAMIC TECHNOLOGY (323)" with "UTENSILS (415)"

Indexing Notes by

Sarah Berry

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