Ancient Man Peking Man Homo Erectus Pekinensis Part 2

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


PEKING MAN (Homo erectus pekinensis)

Luckily, Weidenreich made casts of all the fossils and took them, along with drawings and photographs, with him when he came to the U.S. in 1941, for the fossils themselves--except for a tooth Black had attached to a watch chain--were lost later that year. The Japanese invaded China before the crates of fossils could be shipped out of the country; the train that was transporting them to the coast was ransacked by the Japanese, and the fossils disappeared. In 1972 the Chinese government enlisted the help of financier Christopher Janus in the search. He offered a reward (at first $5,000, later $150,000) for information about the fossils and tracked down leads the world over. The net results: 500 responses; some hot leads, which came to nothing; four marriage proposals; a box of chicken bones; a skull stuffed with lilies; a 6-ft. caribou skeleton; three death threats; visits from the FBI and CIA (and help from the former in locating people and gathering data); job offers; loan requests; and an invitation to appear in a deodorant commercial. In 1977 he gave up and withdraw the reward.

Now classified as Homo erectus pekinensis, a subspecies which may have been one of the predecessors of Homo sapiens (modern humans), Peking Man lived, with others of his kind, at least 800,000 years ago. Anthropologist Richard Leakey of Africa, who has discovered what may have been a prototype of Homo erectus dating from about 2.8 million years ago, has said, "The Chinese must develop a different way to date their sites for more accuracy. Upon reexamination, they'll probably find these fossils to be a million years older than now dated."

The Peking People had flat-topped heads inside of which was a brain nearly the size of a modern person's; big jaws and large teeth with both ape and human characteristics (they had more teeth than we do, and some of their sharpedged canines stuck out); and no chins to speak of. They were short by modern standards--about 5 ft. 1 in--but showed an increase in size over earlier humanoids. It is possible that they could speak, but no one knows for sure.

Their lives were hard--they were preyed upon by saber-toothed tigers, elephants, hyenas, and other large animals--so they banded together in groups of about 40. In addition to nuts, roots, and berries, they ate meat--boar, horse, buffalo, rhino, but most of all venison (three fourths of the animal bones found in the cave were deer bones). They were users of tools--choppers and scrapers made from chert, quartz, and sandstone, the design of which suggests right-handedness. Fire was important to them for cooking as well as for protection and warmth. Scanty evidence of cannibalism to the contrary, Peking People were beginning to develop group loyalties.

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