Ancient Man Peking Man Homo Erectus Pekinensis Part 1

About the search for Peking man or homo erectus pekinensis a subspecies of ancient man, the search, discovery, and description of Peking man.

AMONG THE FIRST 5 PERSONS TO WALK THE EARTH

PEKING MAN (Homo erectus pekinensis)

"Dragon bones," which were ground up to make medicine in China until recently, were really fossil bones, some of them human. Paleontologists had been buying fossils of human molars in Peking apothecary shops for 25 years before J. Gunnar Andersson, mining adviser to the Chinese government, found a piece of quartz at Choukoutien, about 30 mi. south of Peking, in 1923. The piece of quartz was not native to the region, so he inferred that it might be a primitive tool and started excavation in a debris-filled limestone cave. There an assistant unearthed two teeth that suggested the presence of humanoid remains. Canadian anatomist Davidson Black of Peking Union Medical College, who had long been convinced that humanity originated in Asia, joined him in the search. They were financed by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Geological Survey of China.

In 1927 their team found a large humanoid molar, from which Black imagined a complete creature, whom he called Sinanthropus pekinensis ("China man from Peking"). In 1929 a skull was unearthed. One story, which may or may not be true, says that Chinese paleontologist W.C. Pei, who found the skull, wrapped it up, put it in his bicycle basket, and pedaled it the 30 mi. to Black's Peking laboratory. Black enthusiastic and obsessed with his work, spent nights blowing the dust away from the skull with an adapted dentist's drill (an activity from which he developed silicosis). He also directed field operations, wrote reports, measured and described fossils--almost literally worked himself to death. He ignored a mild heart attack in 1933, and the following year he was found dead in his lab, supposedly holding in his hand the skull he had so lovingly liberated from the crusts of millennia. White-haired German Franz Weidenreich, a refugee from Hitler's Germany, replaced him.

When digging came to an end in 1937, at threat of war, the group had revealed remains of about 40 people: skulls, teeth, limbs, and jawbones. The team had also collected crude quartz tools, animal bones broken to get at the marrow, hearths, and evidence that Peking Man was a cannibal--split bones, as well as skulls with the hole at the bottom widened so that the brains could be eaten.

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