Longyan, Fujian, 9 Sep (ZXS) -- Question: What kind of "Fujian-Taiwan border" has Qi He Cave revealed?

——Interview with Fan Zhiquan, Director of the Institute of Ethnic Nationalities and Languages of the Fujian-Taiwan Regional Research Center of Fujian Normal University

China News Agency reporter Long Min

Located at the top of Keel Mountain in Beijing's Zhoukoudian, the mountaintop cave is famous for discovering the "Peak Cave Man" that dates back about 1,8 years (2,7 years). In the mountainous area of western Fujian, there is also a cave called Qihe Cave, which has attracted the attention of experts in prehistoric culture and archaeology at home and abroad because of the unearthed skulls of ancient humans.

Why is it said that "there is a mountaintop cave in the north, and a qihe cave in the south"? What kind of "Fujian-Taiwan border" does Qihe Cave reveal? Fan Zhiquan, director of the Institute of Ethnic and Language Studies of Fujian-Taiwan Regional Research Center of Fujian Normal University, recently gave an exclusive interview to China News Agency's "East-West Question" to make an in-depth analysis.

The following is a summary of the interview:

China News Agency: How was the site of Qihe Cave discovered? What have been the results of these archaeological excavations?

Fan Zhiquan: The ruins of Qihe Cave are located 4 kilometers northeast of Zaotou Village, Xianghu Town, Zhangping City, Longyan City, Fujian Province, and 42 kilometers southwest of Zhangping City. Qihe Cave, also known as "Bat Cave", is named because of the large number of bats in the cave and the denseness of the habitat. The "Chronicle of Zhangping County" (1830th year of Qing Daoguang, <> AD) recorded: "Bat cave, in the Qianhua Qiu Zhusaka, the stone wall and rock, the cave is deep, the cold spring is clear, and it is a long stream. It is said that there is a trick to Tongyou Creek, and the villagers hold candles to go deep, and they can't stop at the bottom. ”

Vista of the ruins of Qihe Cave. Photo courtesy of Longyan Zhangping Rong Media Center

The archaeological excavation of the Qihe Cave site began with the third national cultural relics census in 2008. In this cultural relics census, the relevant departments of Longyan City set up a cultural relics census team to carry out a special investigation of "prehistoric cave paleohuman sites" on calcareous caves in the city from November of that year. After field investigation, Fan Xuechun, a researcher at the Fujian Museum and the Pingtan International Austronesian Language Research Institute, believes that the Qihe Cave has an open mouth and a spacious cave, which is very suitable for the survival of ancient humans, and is superior in the living environment compared with the earliest Paleolithic cultural site in Fujian Province - the Sanming Wanshou Rock Chuanfan Cave site.

Since then, the archaeological excavation of the Qihe Cave site has begun. From January 2009 to 1, the archaeological excavation team led by Fan Xuechun conducted three rescue archaeological excavations at the Qihe Cave site, covering an area of about 2011 square meters.

According to carbon 14 determination, the site of Qihe Cave dates from 17000 to 7000 years ago, and is divided into three periods: the end Paleolithic, the Neopaleolithic transition period and the early Neolithic period. A number of extremely valuable relics and relics were found in the site, including the late Paleolithic cobblestone paved moving ground, ash pits, etc., early Neolithic fire pits, pillar holes and ash pits; The relics include stone tools, grinding stone tools, bone tools, pottery, human skull, limb bones and animal bones.

In April 2012, the site of Qihe Cave was selected as one of the top ten new archaeological discoveries in China in 4. In May 2011, it was approved by the State Council as the seventh batch of national key cultural relics protection units.

Aerial view of Chiho Cave. Photo courtesy of Longyan Zhangping Rong Media Center

China News Agency: Why is the discovery of the Qihe Cave site called a major breakthrough in prehistoric archaeology, and there is a saying that "there is a mountaintop cave in the north and a Qihe cave in the south"? What is its value as a precious prehistoric cultural heritage?

Fan Zhiquan: In the transition from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic period, the existing archaeological materials in Fujian are still relatively lacking, and there is a lack of specific dating data. The stratigraphic and cultural layers of the Qihedong site are continuous, the cultural layers are superimposed on each other, and the relics are rich, and its Chinese layer spans the Paleolithic and Neolithic transition periods to the early and middle Neolithic period, and contains a large number of relics and relics, which are also very rare in Fujian and even the southeastern provinces of China.

The cave is small and the world is big, and the cave is shallow and the culture is deep. The Qihedong site is a major breakthrough in prehistoric archaeology in southeast China in recent years, which not only fills the gap in the transition period from Paleolithic to Neolithic in Fujian, but also provides important data for further improving the Neolithic archaeological cultural sequence in Fujian.

The site of Qihe Cave has ash pits, cobblestone moving ground, fire pits, and pillar holes at the site of the house, indicating that humans settled here 1,<> years ago, and engaged in gathering and hunting activities, leaving a large amount of burnt earth and wood ash. A large number of stone tools, pottery, bone tools, art ornaments, etc. have been unearthed, reflecting the cultural development trend of the transition stage of the Old Neolithic period. Excavated animal bones include fish, birds, turtles and turtles and mammals, among which the skeletons of the bobtail monkey were first discovered in prehistoric cultural sites in Fujian.

Important remains of ancient human sites in Qihedong include ash pits, pillar holes, fire chambers, etc., and the most important thing is the discovery of the earliest stove among all the sites of ancient humans in the south, known as the "first stove in the south". Photo courtesy of Longyan Zhangping Rong Media Center

Particularly valuable is the discovery of human bones. Paleolithic human fossils found in Fujian Province, such as the humerus in the Brother Island Sea area of Dongshan County, Zhangzhou, and the molars of the fox cave in Sanming and Qingliu County, are all late Homo sapiens fossils; Due to the lack or incompleteness of the relevant cultural layers, it is difficult to obtain information about the survival of human beings at that time from fossil analysis. The discovery of human bones in the site of Qihe Cave provides new physical materials for exploring the physical characteristics of human beings in the transition from Paleolithic to Neolithic, the differences between northern and southern populations 10,000 years ago, the mode of life, and even the origin of modern humans and human migration.

The human bones of the Qihe cave site belong to three individuals from different periods in the cave. According to the order of their excavation, experts named Qihedong I., II., and III. respectively. No. I is a fragment of a juvenile skull, which has not been preserved. No. II is an adult female skull fragment and part of the posterior skull. No. III is an adult male skull and its mandible, which is the earliest and most complete ancient human remains found in Fujian. As a result, Wu Xiujie, a researcher at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, commented, "There are mountaintop cave people in the north, and there are Qihe cave people in the south", and such complete character specimens unearthed in Zhangpingqihe Cave are extremely rare in the south.

From 2020 to 2021, two studies by the team of Fu Qiaomei, a researcher at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, successively successfully captured and sequenced the genomes of Qihedong II and III. Its research results show that Qihe Cave II is about 8400 years old, and III is about 1,2 years old. The Qihedong individuals belong to the same kind of people as the Xitou Village and Tanshishan individuals in the adjacent areas of Fujian from about 4600 to 4200 years ago, and the Matsu Liangdao and Penghu Suogang individuals on the west side of the Taiwan Strait from about 8300 to 4800 years ago, all belong to the same kind of group, called the "East Asian Paleo-Southern Group". The "East Asian Paleo-Southern Population" is another important branch of the early modern population in East Asia, which has had a profound influence on the modern population living in Asia and the Pacific today, especially the Austronesian-speaking population.

It can be said that the remains of ancient humans in Qihedong are of great practical significance for the analysis of the migration of people on both sides of the strait, cultural exchanges, and the study of the origin and spread of Austronesian-speaking populations.

The picture shows the ancient human skull unearthed at the site of Qihe Cave in 2011. Photo courtesy of Longyan Zhangping Rong Media Center

China News Agency: What kind of "Fujian-Taiwan border" does Qihedong reveal?

Fan Zhiquan: Qihe Cave is a cave site that transitioned from the late Paleolithic to the early Neolithic. The remains of the third period of Qihe Cave date from about 10000,7000 to <>,<> years ago, that is, the middle Neolithic period; Its pottery ornamentation, especially the mouth jagged imprint pattern and shell tooth embossing pattern, is similar to the sites such as the Daqu pit in Taiwan and the shell mound head in the Pingtan area, but the age is earlier than the above sites.

Taiwan's Neolithic period is between 6500 and 4500 years ago, and some areas can be extended to the end of about 4300 years ago, represented by the site of Daqukeng. Archaeological research shows that the Daikeng culture is the earliest indigenous culture in Taiwan's Neolithic period, and it is also the ancestral culture of the present-day Austronesian-speaking Taiwanese ethnic minority, the Gaoshan people.

Ancient DNA has yielded some success in studying the origins of Austronesian populations and their dating. In 2014, Ko Min-Shan et al. found that the mitochondrial DNA sequence of the ancient people of Liangdao was closest to that of today's Taiwanese ethnic minorities. Matsu Liang Island is a coastal island, and whether it is homologous with the South China population on the mainland is related to whether the Austronesian population can be traced back to South China, including the southeast coast.

Since 2020, Fu Qiaomei's team and Professor Wang Chuanchao of the Institute of Anthropology of Xiamen University have successively disclosed the whole genomes of ancient people from many archaeological sites in Fujian and Taiwan, including Qihe Cave, including Tanshi Mountain, Xitou Village, Liangdao, Suogang, Hanben and Gongguan. The results not only show that the Qihedong people and the Liangdao people have a very close genetic relationship, but also further show that the ancient people of Taiwan and the Zhuang-Dong (also known as "Dong Taiwanese") people in South China were also closely related 3000,2000 to <>,<> years ago, providing direct evidence for the view that the Austronesian-speaking Taiwanese ethnic minority originated in Chinese mainland South China.

Human-shaped stone artifacts found in Qihe Cave. Photo courtesy of Longyan Zhangping Rong Media Center

Strong ancient DNA evidence from Fujian confirms that the Austronesian population originated from individuals in and around Fujian, China, roughly dating back to about 12000,8400 to <>,<> years ago. This should be the truest and most direct historical confirmation of the "thousand-year-old Fujian-Taiwan border" that has been cut continuously.

The Neolithic site in the coastal area of Fujian, the Shell Hill Head Site Group, from 6500 to 5500 years ago, can be said to be the first pedal of the migration of the ancestors of the ancient southern East Asian population represented by the Qihedong individual, and its time point coincides with the time point of the Qihedong site.

In addition, the older generation of linguists represented by Professor Deng Xiaohua of Xiamen University proposed earlier from the perspective of vocabulary (cognates) that there is a number of "Austronesian bottom" views in Chinese dialects such as Fujian, Hak, and Cantonese, which also provides more intuitive linguistic evidence for the "millennium Fujian-Taiwan border".

Sandstone ground fish-shaped ornaments. Photo courtesy of Longyan Zhangping Rong Media Center

China News Agency: At present, how should we strengthen foreign exchanges and cooperation with Taiwan, deepen the excavation, research and dissemination of archaeological achievements, and promote the protection, development and utilization of the Qihe Cave site?

Fan Zhiquan: First of all, we must accurately grasp and earnestly implement the work policy of cultural relics in the new era of "protection first, strengthen management, excavate value, effectively use and make cultural relics come alive". Based on this policy, formulate scientific protection planning; Improve the management organization and allocate full-time staff; Cooperate with scientific research institutions and universities to establish and improve professional archaeological research institutions, deeply integrate the academic research of relevant scientific research institutions, and further improve the talent training system; Through archaeological research, cultural excavation, public participation and other means, enrich the story and cultural connotation of the Qihe Cave site.

On June 2015, 6, the Fujian Qihedong International Symposium was held in Zhangping City, Longyan. Photo courtesy of Longyan Zhangping Rong Media Center

Second, establish digital museums and digital displays. Using modern scientific and technological means, comprehensive digital collection of the site is carried out, accurate three-dimensional model and texture information are obtained, and the original form and details are preserved; Establish a complete digital file to facilitate management and query; The use of virtual reality, augmented reality and other technologies to establish a digital museum and digitally display the site is conducive to popularizing it to the public, allowing the public to break through the limitations of time and space and feel the historical and cultural value of the site through online virtual experience and education platform, and can also be open to Taiwan compatriots, which is convenient for Taiwan compatriots to deeply understand the historical context of the "millennium Fujian-Taiwan border"; It is necessary to strengthen and improve the protection and management of digital data to prevent data leakage and malicious use.

Third, build a communication platform to strengthen publicity and promotion. Strengthen foreign exchanges with Taiwan, and carry out research and exchanges on the origins of Austronesian speakers by holding and hosting high-level academic lectures and seminars (forums); Closely focusing on characteristic tourism resources such as "the thousand-year-old border of Fujian and Taiwan" and "the origin of Austronesian-speaking people", we strive to create tourism products with local characteristics and cultural connotations with the theme of "visiting landscapes, exploring ruins, Fujian-Taiwan origins, and ethnic integration", and promote the integrated development of the two sides of the strait. (End)

Respondent Profile:

Zhiquan Fan, Ph.D. in Ethnology, Xiamen University, Director of the Institute of Ethnicity and Linguistics of Fujian-Taiwan Regional Research Center, Fujian Normal University, Visiting Scholar at Osaka Prefectural University (2016-2017), has long been engaged in research in the fields of Austronesian linguistics and evolutionary linguistics. He has published many academic papers in Chinese core journals such as "Ethnic Languages", "Academic Monthly" and "Hui Studies", and presided over or participated in a number of projects of the National Social Science Foundation.