Temporal range: Pleistocene
†H. e. lantianensis
|Homo erectus lantianensis|
(Woo Ju-Kang, 1964)
Lantian Man (simplified Chinese: 蓝田人; traditional Chinese: 藍田人; pinyin: Lántián rén), formerly Sinanthropus lantianensis (currently Homo erectus lantianensis) is a subspecies of Homo erectus. Its discovery in 1963 was first described by J. K. Woo the following year. The cranial capacity is estimated to be 780 cubic centimetres (48 cu in), somewhat similar to that of its contemporary, Java Man.
Remnants of Lantian Man were found in Lantian County, in China's Shaanxi province, approximately 50 km southeast of Xi'an. Shortly after the discovery of the mandible (jaw bone) of the first Lantian Man at Chenjiawo (陈家窝), also in Lantian, a cranium (skull) with nasal bones, right maxilla, and three teeth of another specimen of Lantian Man were found at Gongwangling (公王岭), another site in Lantian.
A skull found at Gongwangling is the oldest fossil of a Homo erectus ever found in northern Asia. When first published in 1964, it was dated to 1.15 million years ago, but in 2001, Zhu Zhaoyu (朱照宇), a geologist at the Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and other scientists began a fresh research of the site. Their new analysis was published in 2015, which has determined that the strata containing the cranium from Gongwangling dates to approximately 1.63 million years ago, much older than the previous estimate of 1.15 million years. This new confirmed date makes the cranium the second oldest site outside of Africa, Dmanisi, Georgia being the oldest. It is older than the Peking Man, but slightly younger than the Yuanmou Man. Zhu's further survey of the region led to the discovery of the Shangchen site in Lantian, which was published in 2018. Stone tools (but no hominin fossils) found at Shangchen are dated to more than 2.1 million years ago, the earliest known evidence of hominins outside Africa, surpassing Dmanisi by 300,000 years.
Until the 1980s it had been commonly accepted that comparisons between European and Asian Paleolithic cultures were not possible. The common thinking was that there was too great a difference between their tool technologies. In the 1940s a researcher, H.L. Movius, proposed that the Paleolithic West was made up of "hand axe cultures", while the East had "chopper-chopping tool cultures". Numerous research into technological traditions followed the model proposed by Movius in support of the East/West technology divide.
Twenty-six lithic artifacts were uncovered in the same loess sedimentary deposit as the cranium from the Gongwangling site in Lantian County, China. The artifacts consisted of cores, flakes, choppers, hand-axes, spheroids, and scrapers. Lab analysis suggested that the "early hominins chose quartzite, quartz, greywacke and igneous rock pebbles/cobbles on the riverbank for stone knapping, whereas the fine sandstone, siliceous limestone and chert were used only occasionally." Studying the assemblage from Gongwangling along with a series of other sites in the Lantian region leads researchers to believe that the tools utilized by the hominids are more similar to the Acheulean tools utilized in the West than previously thought. This means that the tool technology is not different, and still consists of more large hand tools e.g. hand-axes than previous researchers thought and represents a continuum of technology from the West rather than two separately occurring technologies.