ZHENGZHOU, June 11 (Xinhua) -- An international team of archaeologists from China, Canada, France, Israel and Norway on Thursday unveiled their study on a 13,500-year-old miniature bird sculpture unearthed from an archaeological site in central China's Henan Province, which suggests it is the oldest known work of Chinese sculpture art.
The discovery sets back not only the origin of sculpture in East Asia by more than 8,500 years but also the history of the art form of birds found in China by 8,000 years.
The bird statue, which is 19.2 mm long, 5.1 mm wide and 12.5 mm high, is dark brown on one side and bronze on the other.
Made of a mammalian limb bone, which had been heated and charred before carving, the bird figurine has a stout body shape, short head, round beak and long tail. Instead of carving the bird's legs, the unknown ancient artist cut a base for the sculpture to stand on.
Li Zhanyang, the first writer of the archaeological study and a professor from Shandong University, said that the small bird figurine was recovered from the Paleolithic site of Lingjing in Henan.
The Lingjing site in the city of Xuchang had earlier been known for the discovery of human cranial fossils dating back 105,000 to 125,000 years ago, which has been named as the hominids "Xuchang Man."
During Li's excavation at Lingjing since 2005, he has seen stratified layers ranging in age from 120,000 years ago to the Bronze Age.
Radiocarbon dating on 32 samples from the burnt animal remains and burnt bones with anthropogenic gouging marks found alongside the bird figurine have suggested that the samples all date back 13,500 years.
"Carving traces suggest they were cut with fine stone tools," said Li.
Peering through a microscope, researchers marveled at the techniques of grinding, polishing, scraping and cutting used in carving such a small object.
"This is the only sculpture in East Asia that can be traced back to the Late Pleistocene. The discovery marks the recognition of a primitive artistic tradition," said Li.
The archaeological finding is described in a study published in the latest issue of the open-access journal PLoS One.
The world's oldest known figurative art pieces dating between 33,000 and 43,000 years old were unearthed in caves in Swabian Jura, Germany. Enditem