Peking Man: Wikis


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Peking Man
Fossil range: Pleistocene
First cranium of Homo erectus pekinensis (Sinathropus pekinensis) discovered in 1929 in Zhoukoudian, today missing (Replica)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Family: Hominidae
Genus: Homo
Species: H. erectus
Subspecies: H. e. pekinensis
Trinomial name
Homo erectus pekinensis
(Black, 1927)

Peking Man (Chinese: 北京猿人pinyin: Běijīng Yuánrén), also called Sinanthropus pekinensis (currently Homo erectus pekinensis), is an example of Homo erectus. A group of fossil specimens was discovered in 1923-27 during excavations at Zhoukoudian (Chou K'ou-tien) near Beijing (known as Peking at that time), China. More recently, the finds have been dated from roughly 500,000 years ago[1], although a new 26Al/10Be dating suggests they may be as much as 680,000-780,000 years old.[2][3]

Between 1929 and 1937, 14 partial craniums, 11 lower jaws, many teeth, some skeletal bones and large numbers of stone tools were discovered in the Lower Cave at Locality 1 of the Peking Man site at Zhoukoudian, near Beijing, in China. Their age is estimated to be between 500,000 and 300,000 years old. (A number of fossils of modern humans were also discovered in the Upper Cave at the same site in 1933.) The most complete fossils, all of which were braincases or skullcaps, are:

  • Skull III, discovered at Locus E in 1929 is an adolescent or juvenile with a brain size of 915 cc.
  • Skull II, discovered at Locus D in 1929 but only recognized in 1930, is an adult or adolescent with a brain size of 1030 cc.
  • Skulls X, XI and XII (sometimes called LI, LII and LIII) were discovered at Locus L in 1936. They are thought to belong to an adult man, an adult woman and a young adult, with brain sizes of 1225 cc, 1015 cc and 1030 cc respectively. (Weidenreich 1937)
  • Skull V: two cranial fragments were discovered in 1966 which fit with (casts of) two other fragments found in 1934 and 1936 to form much of a skullcap with a brain size of 1140 cc. These pieces were found at a higher level, and appear to be more modern than the other skullcaps. (Jia and Huang 1990) (Creationist arguments)

Most of the study on these fossils was done by Davidson Black until his death in 1934. Franz Weidenreich replaced him and studied the fossils until leaving China in 1941. The original fossils disappeared in 1941 while being shipped to the United States for safety during World War II, but excellent casts and descriptions remain. Since the war, other erectus fossils have been found at this site and others in China.

The illustration above is of a reconstruction done by Franz Weidenreich, based on bones from at least four different individuals (none of the fossils were this complete).

Most creationists have considered the Peking Man fossils to be those of apes, or, even more improbably, monkeys, but in recent years the view of Lubenow that they were humans has been gaining ground.


Discovery and identification

Bust of Peking Man on permanent display at Zhoukoudian
Peking Man Skull (replica) presented at Paleozoological Museum of China

Swedish geologist Johan Gunnar Andersson and American palaeontologist Walter W. Granger came to Zhoukoudian, China in search of prehistoric fossils in 1921. They were directed to the site at Dragon Bone Hill by local quarrymen, where Andersson recognised deposits of quartz that were not native to the area. Immediately realising the importance of this find he turned to his colleague and announced, "Here is primitive man, now all we have to do is find him!"[4]

Excavation work was begun immediately by Andersson's assistant Austrian palaeontologist Otto Zdansky, who found what appeared to be a fossilised human molar. He returned to the site in 1923 and materials excavated in the two subsequent digs were sent back to Uppsala University in Sweden for analysis. In 1926 Andersson announced the discovery of two human molars found in this material and Zdansky published his findings.[5]

Canadian anatomist Davidson Black of Peking Union Medical College, excited by Andersson and Zdansky’s find, secured funding from the Rockefeller Foundation and recommenced excavations at the site in 1927 with both Western and Chinese scientists. A tooth was unearthed that fall by Swedish palaeontologist Anders Birger Bohlin which Davidson placed in a locket around his neck.

Davidson published his analysis in the journal Nature, identifying his find as belonging to a new species and genus which he named Sinanthropus pekinensis, but many fellow scientists were skeptical of such an identification based on a single tooth and the Foundation demanded more specimens before they would give an additional grant.[6]

A lower jaw, several teeth, and skull fragments were unearthed in 1928. Black presented these finds to the Foundation and was rewarded with an $80,000 grant that he used to establish the Cenozoic Research Laboratory.

Excavations at the site under the supervision of Chinese archaeologists Yang Zhongjian, Pei Wenzhong, and Jia Lanpo uncovered 200 human fossils (including 6 nearly complete skullcaps) from more than 40 individual specimens. These excavation came to an end in 1937 with the Japanese invasion.

Fossils of Peking Man were placed in the safe at the Cenozoic Research Laboratory of the Peking Union Medical College. Eventually, in November 1941, secretary Hu Chengzi packed up the fossils so they could be sent to USA for safekeeping until the end of the war. They vanished en route to the port city of Qinhuangdao.

Various parties have tried to locate the fossils, but so far they have been without result. In 1972, a US financier Christopher Janus promised a $5,000 (USD) reward for the missing skulls; one woman contacted him, asking for $500,000 (USD) but she later vanished[citation needed]. In July 2005, the Chinese government founded a committee to find the bones to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.

There are various theories of what might have happened, including a theory that the bones sank with the Japanese ship Awa Maru in 1945.[7] Three of the teeth can, however, be found at the Paleontological Museum of Uppsala University[8].

Subsequent Research

Excavations at Zhoukoudian resumed after the war, and parts of another skull were found in 1966. To date a number of other partial fossil remains have been found. The Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1987.[9] New excavations are scheduled to start at the site in the middle of May 2009.[10]

Paleontological conclusions

The first specimens of Homo erectus had been found in Java in 1891 by Eugene Dubois, but were dismissed by many as the remains of a deformed ape. The discovery of the great quantity of finds at Zhoukoudian put this to rest and Java Man, who had initially been named Pithecanthropus erectus, was transferred to the genus Homo along with Peking Man.[11]

Contiguous findings of animal remains and evidence of fire and tool usage, as well as the manufacturing of tools, were used to support H. erectus being the first "faber" or tool-worker. The analysis of the remains of "Peking Man" led to the claim that the Zhoukoudian and Java fossils were examples of the same broad stage of human evolution.

This interpretation was challenged in 1985 by Lewis Binford, who claimed that the Peking Man was a scavenger, not a hunter. The 1998 team of Steve Weiner of the Weizmann Institute of Science concluded that they had not found evidence that the Peking Man had used fire.[citation needed]

Relation to modern Chinese people

Some Chinese paleoanthropologists have asserted in the past that the modern Chinese (and possibly other ethnic groups) are descendants of Peking Man. However, a recent study undertaken by Chinese geneticist Jin Li showed that the genetic diversity of modern Chinese people is well within that of the whole world population, which suggests there was no inter-breeding between modern human immigrants to East Asia and Homo erectus, such as Peking Man, and that the Chinese are descended from Africa, like all other modern humans, in accordance with the Recent single-origin hypothesis, the consensus among most modern scientists.[12][13][14] However, the RRM2P4 gene[15][16] data has been interpreted as suggesting that the Chinese, while largely descend from Africa, like all other humans, may nevertheless have some genetic legacy from hybridization with older Eurasian populations, in accordance with multiregional evolution. The data can, however, alternatively be interpreted as showing a gene sequence which appeared in a modern human populations in Asia, rather than one inherited from earlier ancestors. Some paleontologists claim to see continuity in skeletal remains.[17]

See also

Further reading

  • Jia, Lanpo, Huang, Weiwen. The Story of Peking Man: From Archaeology to Mystery. Oxford University Press, USA, 1990.
  • Sautman, B. “Peking man and the politics of paleoanthropological nationalism in China.” The Journal of Asian Studies 60, no. 1 (2001): 95-124.
  • Schmalzer, Sigrid, The People's Peking Man: Popular Science and Human Identity in Twentieth-Century China. The University of Chicago Press, 2008.
  • Wu, R., and S. Lin. “Peking Man.” Scientific American 248, no. 6 (1983): 86-94.
  • Jake Hooker - The Search for the Peking Man Archaeology magazine March/April 2006)


  1. ^ Ian Tattersall. "Out of Africa again...and again?". Scientific American 276 (4): 60–68. 
  2. ^ Shen, G; Gao, X; Gao, B; Granger, De (Mar 2009). "Age of Zhoukoudian Homo erectus determined with (26)Al/(10)Be burial dating". Nature 458 (7235): 198–200. doi:10.1038/nature07741. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 19279636. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "The First Knock at the Door". Peking Man Site Museum. "In the summer of 1921, Dr. J.G. Andersson and his companions discovered this richly fossiliferous deposit through the local quarry men’s guide. During examination he was surprised to notice some fragments of white quartz in tabus, a mineral normally foreign in that locality. The significance of this occurrence immediately suggested itself to him and turning to his companions, he exclaimed dramatically "Here is primitive man, now all we have to do is find him!"" 
  5. ^ "The First Knock at the Door". Peking Man Site Museum. "For some weeks in this summer and a longer period in 1923 Dr. Otto Zdansky carried on excavations of this cave site. He accumulated an extensive collection of fossil material, including two Homo erectus teeth that were recognized in 1926. So, the cave home of Peking Man was opened to the world." 
  6. ^ "Morgan Lucas" (PDF). 
  7. ^ "Sinking and salvage of the Awa Maru" (PDF). 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Unesco description of the Zhoukoudian site". 
  10. ^ Xinhua article, 4 May 2009
  11. ^ Melvin, Sheila (October 11, 2005). "Archaeology: Peking Man, still missing and missed". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved April 20, 2008. "The discovery also settled a controversy as to whether the bones of Java Man - found in 1891 - belonged to a human ancestor. Doubters had argued that they were the remains of a deformed ape, but the finding of so many similar fossils at Dragon Bone Hill silenced such speculation and became a central element in the modern interpretation of human evolution." 
  12. ^ Jin et al. (1999). "Distribution of haplotypes from a chromosome 21 region distinguishes multiple prehistoric human migrations". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 96 (7): 3796. doi:10.1073/pnas.96.7.3796. PMID 10097117. 
  13. ^ "multiregional or single origin". 
  14. ^ "mapping human history p130-131". 
  15. ^ sequence and gene tree for RRM2P4 haplotypes
  16. ^ Garrigan, D; Mobasher, Z; Severson, T; Wilder, Ja; Hammer, Mf (Feb 2005). "Evidence for archaic Asian ancestry on the human X chromosome" (Free full text). Molecular biology and evolution 22 (2): 189–92. doi:10.1093/molbev/msi013. ISSN 0737-4038. PMID 15483323. 
  17. ^ Shang et al. (1999). "An early modern human from Tianyuan Cave, Zhoukoudian, China". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104 (16): 6573. doi:10.1073/pnas.0702169104. PMID 17416672. 

Coordinates: 39°43′59″N 115°55′01″E / 39.733°N 115.917°E / 39.733; 115.917

Simple English

Peking Man
Fossil range: Pleistocene
Bust of Peking Man on permanent display at Zhoukoudian
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Family: Hominidae
Genus: Homo
Species: H. erectus
Subspecies: H. e. pekinensis
Trinomial name
Homo erectus pekinensis
(Black, 1927)

Sinanthropus pekinensis

Peking Man, also called Sinanthropus pekinensis (currently Homo erectus pekinesis), is a example of Homo erectus. The remains werw first discovered between in 1923 and 1937 during excavations at Zhoukoudian near Beijing, in China. Their age is estimated to be between 500,000 and 300,000 years old. A number of fossils of modern humans were also discovered in the Upper Cave at the same site in 1933.

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