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30 November 2008
Paleolithic Chinese people may have worn red clothing

The color red, which represents luck, happiness and passion in China, could have been used in clothing 15,000 years ago. Li Zhanyang, a researcher with Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, said in an interview. Li has been leading an eight-member archaeological team doing excavation and related research on lake-based ruins in Xuchang, central China's Henan Province, in recent years.
     According to Li, their excavation team found from the soil strata dating back 15,000 years, or the late Paleolithic Era, at the Xuchang ruins more than 20 pieces of hematite, one of iron oxides commonly used as a dyestuff, alongside three dozen thin instruments made of animal tooth enamel, plus seven needles made of the upper cheek tooth enamel of a rhinoceros sub-species now extinct. It is the first time in China that iron oxide of such high concentration has been excavated from the ruins of the late Paleolithic Era, claimed Li.
     "Through excavation, we are confident that these hematite were deliberately brought to the Xuchang ruins from afar by ancient people, as Xuchang does not produce such minerals," said Li. The ruins used to be the location of a lake where activities such as clothes making, food preparing, water drinking were clustered, said Li. "I believe the people who lived there might have used hematite to dye clothes, which was quite different from Upper Cave Man at Zhoukoudian of Beijing who used hematite as a sacrifice to the dead, or from Europe, where ancient people there used hematite to draw cave murals."
     Li said lab work proved the thin tools made of animal tooth enamel might have be used as articles similar to buttons in present times. "There has been evidence suggesting people dating back 15,000 years could have made advanced fur apparel. If that is true, the most popular color might have been red," said the Chinese archaeologist.
     The Paleolithic site at Xuchang was discovered in 1965, when Chinese scientists found animal fossils and stone artifacts from soil dug for a well. The most recent large scale excavation started in June 2005.

Source: China Daily (26 November 2008)

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