白石崖溶洞

Baishiya Karst Cave


Useful Information

Location: West of Dagajia Gorge, Ganjia Country, Xiahe County 747100.
(35.448437, 102.570361)
Open: No restrictions.
[2021]
Fee: free.
Monk guided tour: Adults CNY 39.
[2021]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave SubterraneaCave Church
Light: bring torch
Dimension: L=1,000 m, A=3,280 m asl.
Guided tours:  
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Fahu Chen, Frido Welker, Chuan-Chou Shen, Shara E. Bailey, Inga Bergmann, Simon Davis, Huan Xia, Hui Wang, Roman Fischer, Sarah E. Freidline, Tsai-Luen Yu, Matthew M. Skinner, Stefanie Stelzer, Guangrong Dong, Qiaomei Fu, Guanghui Dong, Jian Wang, Dongju Zhang, Jean-Jacques Hublin (2019):
A late Middle Pleistocene Denisovan mandible from the Tibetan Plateau
Nature. Springer Science and Business Media LLC. 569 (7756): 409–412. doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1139-x. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 31043746 pdf
Address: Baishiya Karst Cave, Tel: +86-.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1980 Xiahe mandible discovered by a Tibetan monk who was meditating in the cave.
2010 Chen Fahu and Zhang Dongju began studying the cave.
2016 collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
2016 first archaeological survey at the cave.
2018 first systematic excavation in the cave.

Description

白石崖溶洞 (Baishiya Karst Cave) is actually a karst cave and it is possible to visit the cave guided by a monk. As far as we know this visit is not for the faint-hearted, there are numerous steep parts, rickety iron ladders and no light. You must definitely bring your own equipment as the guide will have only a single lamp and provide no equipment at all. If you are not able or willing to do some climbing you will have problems. Actually the way to the cave is quite difficult too. It is located in a remote part of Ganshu Province, on a mountainside at an elevation of 3,280 m asl.

The cave is located on the southern side of Dalijiashan Mountain, at the mouth of the Jiangla River. The cave portal os 20m wide and 10m high and opens at the foot of a cliff. Facing south, with drinking water nearby and a great view, it was of great strategic value. It's easy to understand why the Deniosovans frequented the place, Later it became a Tibetan Buddhist sanctuary which belongs to Baishiya Temple, and was frequented by monks for meditation. It is said to be a former abode of Padmasambhava and the bodhisattva Tara. Tibetan Buddhists pilgrim to the cave and some time ago it became a tourist attraction. It was even visited by the 10th Panchen Lama in 1982. According to legend, the cave is connected to Xunhua County in Qinghai province, which is more than 50 km away. The actual length is only about 1 km. The monks normally use only the entrance for meditation, but it seems they are willing to show their cave to visitors.

We actually would not have listed the cave for its cave trekking tours, which are probably better called caving tours. We listed it for the archaeological importance of the site. The cave on a steep cliff face high up in the Himalayas was visited by humans for at least 160,000 years, which is quite impressive. Wikipedia calls this a "low-oxygen environment", but the site contained the earliest hominin fossil found on the Tibetan Plateau. The Xiahe mandible is the first confirmed discovery of a Denisovan fossil outside of CaveDenisova Cave. It was discovered in 1980 by a Tibetan monk who was meditating in the cave. He passed the fossil to Jigme Tenpe Wangchug, the sixth living Buddha of Gongtangcang, who donated it to Lanzhou University. But the researchers at the university did not know how to classify it, because it was so unusual. It took decades until finally Chen Fahu and Zhang Dongju began studying the cave. Finally, the cave was archaeologically examined and excavated in 2018.

A great discovery was made in 2019 when a fragment of jawbone was excavated. The Xiahe mandible was examined more closely, and a calcareous crust on the mandible was determined to be about 165,000 years old by uranium-thorium dating. Material from the teeth was analyzed and the protein analysis.showed that the Xiahe specimen belonged to a population that was closely related to the Denisovan specimens from Denisova Cave. This was the first time an ancient hominin was successfully identified using protein analysis.