Prehistorical remains of Peking Man was discovered 50km from southwest of Beijing, small town named Zhoukoudian. Zhoukoudian was believed to be occupied by a species of early proto-humans named Peking Man 500, 000 years ago. The discovery of fossilized human bones from Sinanthropus pekinensis provide a lead to the missing link between Neanderthal and modern humans. Providing testimony for the process of human evolution, the Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian is recognised as a UNESCO cultural heritage site in 1987, listed together with other most renowned China attractions such as the Great Wall and Forbidden City.
History of Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian
In 1918, a Swedish geologist called Johan Gunnar Andersson begun to lay his eyes on the fossils in Zhoukoudian after his friends had brought him some bones from that location, he had realised that the bones were different from normal mammals fossils. Then he sent his Austrian assistant Otto Zdansky to further excavate the site, eventually broken pieces resulted from sharp artificial strike was unearthed, Andersson deduced that the primitive of human was buried in Zhoukoudian. Until 1926, Zdansky unearthed a molar from the fossils, which was identified as a tooth of apes. From then on various sponsorships were attracted to excavate Zhoukoudian, which included USA, Sweden and China.
The Name of Peking Man
It was the first time for China scholars to officially participate in Zhoukoudian excavation. The only objective of their partnership was to discover the remains of the ancestor of human. After a year, another tooth was found. And â€œApe of China Pekingâ€, Peking Man in short, was a new classification of ancient human which lived half a million years ago.
The Name of Peking Man
But a small single tooth was still too weak to proof the existence of Peking Man. As the skills of Chinese excavation began to mature, the foreigners began to went back home and the Chinese scholars gradually took charge of the excavation work.
During December of 1929, a site worker claimed the discovery of a leg of rhino, under the careful examination of Pei Wenzhong, the Chinese archaeologists who was in charge of this project, he identified it as a skullcap of the Peking Man.
In 1936 during the Japanese Invasion, another Chinese archaeologist Jia Lanpo and his team unearthed 3 more skullcaps. Up till 1937, 5 skullcaps, 9 pieces of head bones and numerous bone fossils were extracted. They came from 40 different bodies, from male to female, and old to young, signifying a complete set of human prototype. Besides human fossils, thousands of stone artifacts and plants fossils had been excavated. This showed that Peking Man was capable of using these tools.
Lost of Skull
Despite of the promising excavation, no one was interested in what their origin was in the times of war. Later in the same year of 1937, excavation work had been suspended because of the Japanese invasion.
In late 1937, two Japanese from the Tokyo University asked Pei Wenzhong for a look of the skulls in the name of academic research. This rose Peiâ€™s suspicion, so he had declined their offer.
At that time the skull was still under the control of Chinese authority, and was kept at the deposit box underground in the medical academy. Due to the unstable state, the authority planned to move the skulls and fossils to United States by US marine corps from Qinghuangdao on 5th December 1941; on 8th of December, the train carrying the fossils arrived Qinghuangdao, where the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour in the previous day, initiating the second world war. Disembarking Shanhaiguan (near Qinghuangdao), the US marine corps was too attacked and captured by the Japanese. From then on nobody could track the fossils.
Half year later, the Japanese papers stated that the fossils were stolen from the medical academy, authorities of Japan stationed in Beijing ordered to locate the fossils of Peking Man.
Near the end of 1942, a secret Japanese agent Goargia was appointed to the Peking Man mission. He had questioned Pei and the related parties, at the same time hunt all over Beijing and Tianjin. But no clue was left for him. After a year no progress had been made, Goargia tried to kill himself in a Beijing apartment.
The fossils of Peking Man were missing forever. Had they been destroyed by war, or either China, USA or Japan had secretly hiding them from the world? So now in the museum of Zhoukoudian, visitors could only see the photos and documentaries of the skullcaps.
The discoveries in Zhoukoudian testified the process of evolution for the origin of human, at the same time verify the theory of evolutionary proposed by Charles Robert Darwin.