Friday, July 24, 2009

Basian Cave Artifacts go back 25,000 years

Basian Cave on the east coast of Taiwan. There is a small park with steps and paths leading to the cave site, which is in the rock outcrop on the right.

From the Department of Way Cool, Taiwan Today reports:
Tsang Cheng-hwa, deputy director of Academia Sinica’s Institute of History and Philology, said materials unearthed in eastern Taiwan’s Changbin Township, Taitung County, are from the Paleolithic period.

Tsang and a team of researchers discovered the remains of wooden rubbing sticks used to make fire in two pits at the Baxian Cave site May 12. According to Tsang, the items were found in Kunlun Cave, 138 meters above sea level, and Chaozhen Cave, 120 meters above sea level.

Charcoal samples sent for carbon dating to the United States proved over 20,000 years old, with some pieces from Kunlun Cave shown to be 25,000 years old. “This find is extremely important for Taiwan’s archaeological community,” Tsang said.

The team’s yearlong study was commissioned by the Taitung County Government and its members included Professor Chen Wen-shan of National Taiwan University’s Department of Geosciences and Associate Research Fellow Li Kuang-ti of Academia Sinica’s Institute of History and Philology.

In addition to discovering that humans occupied the site as much as 25,000 years ago, the researchers uncovered seven new caves, giving Baxian a total of 24 different sites where humans once lived.

Baxian is a key Paleolithic site in Taiwan. Between 1968 and 1969, Professor Wen-hsun Sung of NTU’s Department of Anthropology uncovered the remains of a prehistoric culture at Qianyuan Cave. At the time, carbon dating could only indicate that samples were more than 15,000 years old. (FS-JSM)
Baxian, which houses the remains of the Changpin culture, is the first and only Paleolithic site discovered in Taiwan.

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竹板凳 said...

further confirming the linguistics and DNA evidence that Austronesians were isolated in Taiwan for 10000 to 20000 years before expanding out to the Philippines.

Anonymous said...

Taiwan has got such a long history, only a small fraction of it involved Chinese. Hopefully school kids will learn about all of Taiwanese history.

Joel Linton said...

I am glad that Taiwan has archaeologists diligently uncovering a history that goes far beyond the first Chinese immigrants who came here some 400 years ago. Truly Taiwan has not, repeat NOT, been "part of China since ancient times." Actually, it was never part of "China." Part of it was part of the Manchu empire. Any many immigrants from China came to Taiwan.

Regarding the findings: for myself, I would not feel so comfortable putting as specific a date on the artifacts. Carbon dating is not very certain when you get beyond the age of the oldest trees (within 5000 years) because there is no way to link the carbon 14/carbon 12 ratio to a certain date. One must make a lot of assumptions that cannot be confirmed -- e.g. what was the original carbon 14 / carbon 12 ratio in the atmosphere that was taken up in the plant in photo synthesis at that time.

Basically any single dating instrument without corroborating and distinct evidence is not very solid information.

The other dating methods that go further back depend on even more assumptions e.g. constants in radiation hitting the earth, etc. To assume everything about the past cosmological conditions, radiation from explosions of starts in the solar system, solar output, etc. etc. is the same as today seems to be a bit of a stretch.

It does not seem a helpful or a meaningful bit of information to say one place is 20,000 years and the other 25,000 years.