Peking Man

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Homo erectus pekinensis
Temporal range: Pleistocene
First cranium of Homo erectus pekinensis (Sinanthropus 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)
Synonyms

Sinanthropus pekinensis

 
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Homo erectus pekinensis
Temporal range: Pleistocene
First cranium of Homo erectus pekinensis (Sinanthropus 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)
Synonyms

Sinanthropus pekinensis

Peking Man (Chinese: 北京猿人; pinyin: Běijīng Yuánrén), 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 (written "Peking" before the adoption of the Pinyin romanization system), China. More recently, the finds have been dated from roughly 750,000 years ago,[1] and a new 26Al/10Be dating suggests they are in the range of 680,000–780,000 years old.[2][3]

Between 1929 and 1937, 15 partial crania, 11 mandibles, 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 calvariae, are:

Most of the study on these fossils was done by Davidson Black until his death in 1934. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin took over until Franz Weidenreich replaced him and studied the fossils until he left China in 1941. The original fossils disappeared in 1941 during World War II, but excellent casts and descriptions remain.

Discovery and identification[edit]

Bust of Peking Man on permanent display at Zhoukoudian

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!"[6]

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 to Uppsala University in Sweden for analysis. In 1926 Andersson announced the discovery of two human molars in this material, and Zdansky published his findings.[7]

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. Swedish palaeontologist Anders Birger Bohlin unearthed a tooth that fall, and Black placed it in a gold locket on his watch chain.[8]

Black 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 about such an identification on the basis of a single tooth, and the foundation demanded more specimens before it grant additional money.[9]

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 six nearly complete skullcaps) from more than 40 individual specimens. These excavations 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 the fossils so that they could be sent to USA for safekeeping until the end of the war. The fossils vanished en route to the port city of Qinhuangdao in northern China.

Various parties have tried to locate the fossils, but so far they have been without result. In 1972, 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.[10] In July 2005, to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Chinese government founded a committee to find the bones.

There are various theories about the fate of the bones. One theory states that the bones sank with the Japanese ship, Awa Maru, in 1945.[11] Three of the teeth can, however, be found at the Paleontological Museum of Uppsala University.[12]

Subsequent research[edit]

Excavations at Zhoukoudian resumed after the war. The Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1987.[13] New excavations were started at the site in June 2009.[14][15]

Paleontological conclusions[edit]

Homo erectus pekinensis, forensic facial reconstruction

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.[16]

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.

Relation to modern humans[edit]

Franz Weidenreich considered Peking Man as a human ancestor and specifically an ancestor of the Chinese people,[17] as seen in his original multiregional model of human evolution in 1946.[18] Chinese writings on human evolution in 1950 generally considered evidence insufficient to determine whether Peking Man was ancestral to modern humans. One view was that Peking Man in some ways resembled modern Europeans more than modern Asians.[19] However, this debate of the origin has sometimes become complicated by issues of Chinese nationalism.[20] By 1952, however, Peking Man had been considered by some to be a direct ancestor of modern humans.[21] Some paleontologists have noted a perceived continuity in skeletal remains.[22]

Homo erectus pekinensis - Forensic facial reconstruction

A 1999 study undertaken by Chinese geneticist Jin Li showed that the genetic diversity of modern East Asian people is well within that of the whole world population, which suggests there was only limited inter-breeding between modern human immigrants to East Asia, and preceding populations. However, more current genetics show Homo erectus, descending as 'Peking Man', is genetically related to modern Eurasian and American peoples; that is, a 700,000 year descent with all other hominids into a modern sapiens migration from Africa, like modern humans throughout older Eurasian studies, lending only some credence to the recent single-origin hypothesis.[23][24][25] However, the RRM2P4 gene data suggests that eastern Asian peoples, while largely descending from Africa like others, nevertheless have some genetic legacy from hybridization with older Eurasian populations,[26][27] consistent with possibly limited multiregional evolution.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Paul Rincon (2009-03-11). "'Peking Man' older than thought". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  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. Bibcode:2009Natur.458..198S. doi:10.1038/nature07741. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 19279636. 
  3. ^ "'Peking Man' older than thought". BBC News. 2009-03-11. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  4. ^ Weidenreich 1937.
  5. ^ Jia and Huang 1990.
  6. ^ "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!"" 
  7. ^ "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." 
  8. ^ Swinton, W.E., Physician contributions to nonmedical science: Davidson Black, our Peking Man, Canadian Medical Association Journal 115(12):1251–1253, 18 December 1976; p 1253.
  9. ^ "Morgan Lucas" (PDF). 
  10. ^ Janus, Christopher G.; Brashler, William, The Search for Peking Man, Macmillian Publishing Co., Inc., New York, 1975
  11. ^ "Sinking and salvage of the Awa Maru" (PDF). 
  12. ^ [1][dead link]
  13. ^ "Unesco description of the Zhoukoudian site". 
  14. ^ ""Peking man" site to be excavated after 72 years". People's Daily Online. June 25, 2009. Retrieved 2010-08-16. 
  15. ^ "Rescue Excavation of Peking Man Site Kicks Off". Chinese Academy of Sciences. 2009-06-29. Retrieved 2010-08-16. 
  16. ^ 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." 
  17. ^ Schmalzer, pg 98.
  18. ^ Alan R. Templeton. Genetics and recent human evolution. 
  19. ^ Zhu Xi, Women de zuxian [Our Ancestors] (Shanghai: Wen hua shenghuo chubanshe, 1950 [1940]), 163. (reference by Schmalzer, pg 97)
  20. ^ Peking Man and the Politics of Paleoanthropological Nationalism in China Barry Sautman in The Journal of Asian Studies Vol. 60, No. 1 (Feb., 2001), pp. 95-124
  21. ^ Schmalzer, p. 97.
  22. ^ Shang et al.; Tong, H; Zhang, S; Chen, F; Trinkaus, E (1999). "An early modern human from Tianyuan Cave, Zhoukoudian, China". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104 (16): 6573–8. Bibcode:2007PNAS..104.6573S. doi:10.1073/pnas.0702169104. PMC 1871827. PMID 17416672. 
  23. ^ Jin et al.; Underhill, PA; Doctor, V; Davis, RW; Shen, P; Cavalli-Sforza, LL; Oefner, PJ (1999). "Distribution of haplotypes from a chromosome 21 region distinguishes multiple prehistoric human migrations". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 96 (7): 3796–800. Bibcode:1999PNAS...96.3796J. doi:10.1073/pnas.96.7.3796. PMC 22374. PMID 10097117. 
  24. ^ "multiregional or single origin". 
  25. ^ "mapping human history p130-131". 
  26. ^ sequence and gene tree for RRM2P4 haplotypes oxfordjournals.org
  27. ^ 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. 

External links[edit]

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