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Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian, Beijing municipality

Peking Man (sometimes now called Beijing Man), also called Sinanthropus pekinensis (currently Homo erectus pekinensis), is an example of Homo erectus. The remains were first discovered in 1923-27 during excavations at Zhoukoudian (Choukoutien) near Beijing (Peking), China.

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Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian, Beijing municipality Location

Zhoukoudian or Choukoutien (Chinese: 周口店; pinyin: Zhōukǒudiàn) is a cave system near Beijing in China.

Beijing, a metropolis in northern China, is the capital of the People's Republic of China (PRC). It was formerly known in English as Peking or Peiking [English Pronunciation]. Beijing is also one of the four municipalities of the PRC, which are equivalent to provinces in China's administrative structure. Beijing Municipality borders Hebei Province to the north, west, south, and for a small section in the east, and Tianjin Municipality to the southeast.

Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian, Beijing municipality Attractions

Zhoukoudian has yielded many archaeological discoveries, including one of the first specimens of Homo erectus, dubbed Peking Man, and a fine assemblage of bones of the gigantic hyena Pachycrocuta brevirostris.

Peking Man remains were first discovered in 1923-27 during excavations at Zhoukoudian (Choukoutien) near Beijing (Peking), China. The finds have been dated from roughly 250,000-400,000 years ago in the Pleistocene.

This fossil was originally found by Birgir Bohlin only 3 days before work was to be stopped. First studies began at Zhoukoudian in 1921 with an investigation of a number of caves in the limestone there. According to later accounts of Otto Zdansky, who was working for geologist Johan Andersson, a local man lead western archaeologists to what is today known as the Dragon Bone Hill, a place full of fossilized bones. Zdansky began his own excavation and eventually found bones that resembled human molars. In 1926, he took them to the Peking Union Medical College, in Peking, where Canadian anatomist Davidson Black analysed them. He later published his finds in the journal Nature.

The first specimens of Homo erectus had been found in Java in 1891 by Eugene Dubois, with the Java Man initially being named Pithecanthropus erectus but later transferred to the genus Homo.

The Rockefeller Foundation agreed to fund the work at Zhoukoudian. By 1929, Chinese archaeologists Yang Zhongjian and Pei Wenzhong, and later Jia Lanpo, had taken over the excavation. Over the next seven years, they uncovered fossils of more than 40 specimens including 6 nearly complete skullcaps. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Franz Weidenreich were also involved.

Excavation ended in July 1937 when the Japanese occupied Beijing. Fossils of the Peking Man were placed in the safe at the Cenozoic 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 Qinghuangdao. They were probably in possession of a group of US marines who the Japanese captured when the war began between Japan and USA.

Various parties have tried to locate the fossils but, so far, without result. In 1972, a US financier Christopher Janus promised a $5,000 (U.S.) reward for the missing skulls; one woman contacted him, asking for $500,000 (U.S.) but she later vanished. Janus was later indicted for embezzlement. 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 also various theories of what might have happened, including a theory that the bones had sunk with a Japanese ship Awa Maru in 1945.

The Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1987.

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More on Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian, Beijing municipality

Description of Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian, Beijing municipality at the World Heritage Listing

Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian, Beijing municipality Photo Gallery

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