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Pleistocene Chronology in the Far East

  • W. E. Le Gros Clark
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To the anthropologist, the dating of the fossil remains of prehistoric man in the Far East has always seemed a vague and haphazard business. So far as Europe is concerned, we have accepted the correlations between cultural sequences and stratigraphical data which have been worked out after many years of intensive work by geologists and archaeologists. Indeed, so well has the evidence been clarified for us that we even feel we can to some extent assess the validity of arguments put forward for the chronological position of this or that piece of human fossil. But the Far East is very different. The cultural sequences characteristic of Europe are not to be found there, the animal and plant remains found at different stratigraphical levels have a strange oriental appearance and differ specifically too much from those in the European Pleistocene to permit of direct faunistic correlations, and in the tropical regions such as Java the fluctuations of climate related to the glacial periods were not striking enough to provide a reasonable time scale by reference to any deposits so distinctive as boulder clay. Thus the anthropologist in the past has simply noted the personal opinion of local geologists on the antiquity of fossil man or palaeolithic cultures in the Far East, without really being clear as to the evidence on which the opinion was based (and suspecting, sometimes, that the geologist was not always quite clear himself).

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1 Early Man and Pleistocene Stratigraphy in Southern and Eastern Asia, by Hallam L. Movius. Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, vol. XIX, no. 3, 1944.

2 It is important for the anthropologist to note that the correlation of the Villafranchian with Lower Pleistocene is vigorously contested by many European geologists of sound repute. Reference should be made to Dr F. E. Zeuner’s recent monograph on ‘The Pleistocene Period’ (published by the Ray Society).

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Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
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