Monday, December 18, 2006

Protected Sites: Zhoukoudian Site

The Zhoukoudian Site is located on Dragon Bone Hill at Zhoukoudian Village in Fangshan District of Beijing.
In 1918, a site of ancient animal fossils was discovered in Zhoukoudian by Antson, a Swedish geologist and archaeologist appointed as the consultant by the then Northern Warlords ruling government. In 1921, Antson and an Austrian paleontologist, guided by local people, discovered more fossil deposits on the north slope of the Dragon Bone Hill, known as the Zhoukoudian first site, where they found two fossil teeth of human being. In 1927, Swedish paleo-vertebrate zoologist B. Bulin and Chinese geologist Li Jie led a large-scale excavation in the first site. On December 2, 1929, Chinese renowned archaeologist Pei Wenzhong independently launched another excavation and discovered the first skull fossil of ape man which was named as the Peking Man. It was identified as being at least 600,000 years old. The news of finding the Peking Man shocked the academic circle around the world. In the following excavations, a number of relics of stone tools and sites where Peking Man used fire were discovered on the Dragon Bone Hill. The study on these findings indicates that Peking Man lived about 690,000 years ago and could walk erectly. They lived on hunting animals, could make and use coarse stone tools and learned how to use fire to cook food. Peking Man lived in the early Paleolithic period.

Before the discovery of Peking Man, Neanderthal Man and Boxgrove Man found in Germany as well as Java Man had not received recognition from the world's academic circle. Even evolutionists had not reached a unanimous conclusion on the origin of human beings and the role those fossils played in the evolution process. The discovery of Peking Man's skull fossil, stone tools and fire-using sites solved the controversy over the existence of erected man and basically determined the sequence of human evolution, providing strong evidence to the theory of from ape to man.

So far, bone segments from the bodies of about 40 humans have been excavated in the Zhoukoudian Site, with which the Peking Man's basic features can be restored. Besides, a total number of over 100, 000 stones tools and fossils of vertebrate have also been discovered in the site. Relic site of such richness is seldom seen in the world.

Fossils of primitive men living 18,000 years ago were excavated under the leadership of Mr. Pei Wenzhong in 1933 and were named Upper Cave Man fossils. The Upper Cave Man had primitive Mongoloid features, with well-developed intelligence. Bone needles and various ornaments were also excavated at the place together with the earliest burial ground in China. Study proves that the Upper Cave Man not only were experienced in hunting and fishing but also knew how to use bone needle to make up fell clothes and learned comparatively advanced technique to make ornaments. The rudiments of primitive religion came into being at this time. The Upper Cave Man entered into the late Paleolithic period.

When the Pacific War broke out in December 1941, a large number of fossils of Peking Man and Upper Cave Man and stone tools excavated in the Zhoukoudian Site were shipped away by Americans. These precious cultural relics have not been found since then, making it a big unsettled case that draws the world's attention.

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