The Dawn of Civil­i­sa­tion

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS -

Zhouk­oudian Vil­lage in Fang­shan District is 48 kilo­me­tres south­west of Bei­jing, with the Tai­hang Moun­tains range in its west ex­tend­ing into the vast and fer­tile North China Plain, and the Zhoukou River flow­ing through it. Such a sight is typ­i­cally found in any vil­lage in north­ern China.

The Dis­cov­ery of Pek­ing Man

Be­fore the site of Pek­ing Man was un­earthed in Zhouk­oudian, there were many pre­sump­tions, myths and leg­ends con­cern­ing hu­man ori­gins. Peo­ple ar­gued over and tried to jus­tify their the­o­ries by scour­ing for ev­i­dence.

In March 1918, the Swedish ge­ol­o­gist Jo­han Gun­nar An­der­s­son (1874–1960), who came to China for ar­chae­o­log­i­cal re­search at the in­vi­ta­tion of the Beiyang gov­ern­ment (1912–1928) learnt that in the Chicken Bone Hill of Zhouk­oudian on the out­skirts of Bei­jing “dragon bones” were col­lected and used as medic­i­nal ma­te­ri­als by lo­cal peo­ple. He also heard that there were many caves and crevices filled with sim­i­lar ma­te­ri­als. An­der­s­son soon re­alised that th­ese “medic­i­nal ma­te­ri­als” were un­usual yet worth ex­plor­ing.

In the early sum­mer of 1921, at An­der­s­son's ad­vice, the young Aus­trian palaeon­tol­o­gist Otto A. Zdan­sky (1894–1988) came to the Chicken Bone Hill of Zhouk­oudian and be­gan to ex­ca­vate. By in­stinct, An­der­s­son es­ti­mated that the re­mains of hu­man an­ces­tors could be found there.

Fol­low­ing the sug­ges­tion of Zhouk­oudian lo­cals, he moved to Dragon Bone Hill, where he un­earthed many ver­te­brate fos­sils. In 1926, Zdan­sky found two hu­man teeth among the Zhouk­oudian fos­sils that were trans­ported to Aus­tria. At an his­toric mo­ment, Zdan­sky knew that he was knock­ing on the door of mod­ern hu­man ances­try.

In 1929, two years af­ter grad­u­at­ing from the Ge­ol­ogy De­part­ment of Pek­ing Uni­ver­sity, Pei Wen­zhong was ap­pointed to take full charge of ex­ca­va­tions at Zhouk­oudian. On De­cem­ber 2, 1929,

Pei ex­ca­vated a hu­man skull. This skull an­swered the ques­tion about the ori­gin of hu­mans and for the first time proved Dar­win's hy­poth­e­sis that hu­mans de­scended from apes. From then on, the cave where the skull was un­earthed be­came known as Zhouk­oudian First Site.

Later, Chi­nese palaeoan­thro­pol­o­gist Jia Lanpo (1908–2001) again stunned the world. In the 11 days since Novem­ber 15, 1936, he found three Pek­ing Man skulls at the Zhouk­oudian First Site. Re­search in­di­cated the hu­man ances­try fea­tured: low and flat skulls, prom­i­nent brow ridges, short faces, pro­trud­ing mouths, an av­er­age brain vol­ume of a lit­tle more than 1,000 millil­itres, (about two-thirds that of mod­ern hu­mans), short and stocky stature, males an av­er­age of 156 cen­time­tres in height, fe­males an av­er­age of 144 cm in height, short legs, long arms, with heads lean­ing for­ward.

More Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Ex­ca­va­tions

In 1930, when clean­ing up the south­ern bound­ary of the Pek­ing Man Site, ar­chae­ol­o­gists found the Up­per Cave Man Site. Lo­cated north­east of Dragon Bone Hill, it was a well-de­vel­oped fun­nel-shaped karst cave in the south­ern sec­tion of the south­ern crevice of the Pek­ing Man Site.

Up­per Cave Man ar­rived here when the Pek­ing Man Site was al­most filled with ge­o­log­i­cal de­posits. Part of this is lay­ered di­rectly on top of Pek­ing Man, though they were more than 200,000 years apart.

Since the dis­cov­ery of the Up­per Cave Man site at Zhouk­oudian in the 1930s, ex­perts have spec­u­lated there could be an­other early hu­man site in the re­gion. In 2001, in the Tianyuan For­est Farm five to six kilo­me­tres south­west of the Pek­ing Man Site, a cave filled with an­cient se­crets was dis­cov­ered, later named Tianyuan Cave.

Spread­ing Knowl­edge of Pek­ing Man

In the win­ter of 1951, the then vice pres­i­dent of the Chi­nese Academy of Sciences Zhu Kezhen (1890–1974), a renowned me­te­o­rol­o­gist, paid a visit to the Zhouk­oudian Pek­ing Man Site and sug­gested es­tab­lish­ing an of­fi­cial ex­hi­bi­tion hall there. In 1953, the “Ex­hi­bi­tion Hall of Si­nan­thro­pus” opened to the pub­lic, cov­er­ing an area of 300 square me­tres. In 1972, a new 1,000-square-me­tre ex­hi­bi­tion hall was put into ser­vice and re­named “Ex­hi­bi­tion Hall of Pek­ing Man,” which ad­justed its ex­hi­bi­tion items and en­abled vis­i­tors to visit all sites in 1978.

In 2014, the Zhouk­oudian Pek­ing Man Site Mu­seum re­opened af­ter ma­jor ren­o­va­tion. Its ex­hi­bi­tion area was ex­panded nearly sev­en­fold, in­te­grat­ing ex­hi­bi­tions, sci­en­tific re­search and ed­u­ca­tion, and hous­ing more than 1,600 ex­hibits. Some ex­hibits are now on show for the first time since they were un­earthed more than half a cen­tury ago.

This site didn't only house prim­i­tive men but also wit­nessed the ear­li­est won­ders of hu­man be­ings, draw­ing at­ten­tion from around the globe. More­over, Zhouk­oudian Vil­lage in Fang­shan District re­mains a promised land of lo­cal res­i­dents to­day.

An Ex­hi­bi­tion Hall of Zhouk­oudian Pek­ing Man Site Mu­seum

Artis­tic Ren­der­ing of Pro­tec­tion Project for Zhouk­oudian First Site

Zhouk­oudian Pek­ing Man Site

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.