World's smallest paleolithic ornamental beads unearthed

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-11-07 07:59

Chinese archaeologists have unearthed the world's smallest paleolithic ornamental beads, in Northwest China's Ningxia Hui autonomous region. The beads, made of a kind of eggshell, which are 1.26 millimeters in diameter, were discovered at an ancient site from the late Pleistocene dating between 8,000 and 12,000 years ago in Qingtongxia city.

Three beads were discovered at the same time, archaeologists say.

The excavation was jointly conducted by the Ningxia Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology and the cultural relics administration of Qingtongxia from May to August.

"It is incredible that the beads have such small diameters," says Wang Huimin, a researcher with the Ningxia Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology.

Archaeologists say the beads showed excellent craftsmanship and the aesthetic taste. They say further research is needed to determine the exact purpose or meaning of the beads.

It took the archaeologists five years to sift and wash thousands of cubic meters of dirt to find the beads. As many as eight sets of steel sieves were worn out in the process.

In 2016, three beads were found at the site, among which the smallest was 1.42 mm in diameter.

The site in Qingtongxia has produced more than 10,000 items, including stoneware, ornaments and plant seeds.

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