Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian
Highlights of Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian
Introduction to Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian
The Peking Man Site is a significant example of Homo erectus situated near the capital city of Beijing in China. During excavations from 1923-1927, fossil specimens were unearthed at Zhoukoudian. These findings could be anywhere from 500,000 to 780,000 years old. During the period from 1929-1937 there were 11 lower jaws, 15 partial skulls, a few skeletal bones, stone tools and numerous teeth discovered. This set of fossils is guessed to be 500,000 to 300,000 years old. The most complete of the fossils are all skullcaps and braincases including Skulls III, II, X, XI, XII and V. The initial findings were by Johann Gunnar Anderson, Walter W. Granger and Otto Zdansky. During World War II, the original fossils vanished at the port city of Qinhuangdao while being transferred to the United States for their safe-keeping. However, skillful descriptions and casts endure. There have been numerous undertakings to locate the missing fossils, including by the Chinese government, with no success. Fortunately, more erectus fossils have been unearthed since World War II at the Peking Man Site. The Paleontological Museum of Uppsala University is home to three original teeth.
Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian Gallery
Guide to Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian
The tiny village of Zhoukoudian is approximately 50 kilometers to Beijing’s southwest. It is encircled by hills from the northeast and a mountain chain from the northwest. The village itself opens up to the expansive Huabei plains. There is a thin ribbon pass that heads to a basin about one-half kilometer to the north of the village. From this pass flows the Baerhe stream going in a southerly direction. This stream drains into Liulithe after going west of the Zhoukoudian village, around 10 kilometers to the south of Zhoukoudian. On the west flank of this scenic village is the Peking Man Site.
There is also sedimentary strata in the area of geological significance, including Pleistocene and Pliocene. In addition, the area contains deposits of Ordovician limestone from which the locals create lime. It is in this limestone that locals have discovered fossils, or locally termed Dragon Bones.
The discovery of Peking Man is so significant because it is evidence that proves that Homo erectus evolved from apes. This is because Peking Man provides the precise evidence for the intermediate erect man stage in the evolution of humans. In fact, the site of Peking Man is the most studied site of Homo erectus. The data derived from this site is more accurate information for behavior, evolution and palaoenvironment study of Homo erectus than other contemporary European and African localities.
In addition to the fossils of Peking Man, there have also been numerous artifacts, mammal fossils and ashes unearthed at the same site. These also provide great material for human prehistory and evolutionary study.
The massive excavation of the site is in fact the greatest undertaking of its kind in the world. There has been more than 20,000 cubic meters of sediments dug up as well as 4,200 cubic meters in other nearby areas. Of the specimens that could be restored, 375 cubic meters or 1,221 boxes have been documented.
At Locality 1, also known as the Peking Man Cave, there are double hills running in a parallel direction to the west of Zhoukoudian Village. Dragon-bone Hill is the lower of the two to the east. It is 190 meters wide and 220 meters long situated in a north-south orientation. The summit of Dragon-bone Hill is 66 meters higher than the Baerhe river bed and 140.6 meters above sea level. A large cave is located on the hill’s northern slope. The dimensions of the cave are approximately 140 meters in length and 40 meters in width at its widest part. This cave is composed of karst formed from limestone during the Ordovician age, which occurred roughly 450 million years ago. It wasn’t until weathering eroded the entrance to the east that Peking Man eventually was able to inhabit the cave. About 230,000 years ago, Peking man was forced to leave the cave due to the impossibility of remaining in the cave.
Other caves of significance include Locality 4, the New Cave, Locality 15 and Upper Cave. In Locality 4, early Homo sapien specimens were discovered, while in locality 4, late Homo sapien species were unearthed. In Localities 1 and 13, palaeolithic tools from the early era were discovered, in localities 4 and 15 middle palaeolithic tools were found, and later paleolithic instruments were unearthed in the Upper Cave. Therefore, palaeolithic industry is fully represented at each different area in the Peking Man Site.
Video of Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian
History of Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian
A famous Swedish archaeologist who worked as an advisor of mineral affairs in the Chinese government’s Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce department, Johann Gunnar Andersson, was informed that fossils had been discovered at a place called Chicken-bone Hill located near Zhoukoudian in February of 1918. He subsequently surveyed the hill where numerous fossils of rodents had accumulated. The locals had dubbed the place Chicken-bone Hill because these fossils were thought to be chicken bones. Later on, the site’s name was changed to Locality 6 of the Peking Man Site. This initial survey of the area resulted in a succession of inspections of the area.
Austrian palaeontologist Otto Zdansky along with Andersson again examined the area in 1921 and were informed by the locals that there were even more fossils located at Dragon Bone Hill. As they began excavating the area, they unearthed fragments of quartz, animal fossils and even human-like teeth. The excavations of the area were again pursued the following year. Andersson declared that two teeth of early humans were found at Zhoukoudian. This was a shock to the scientific community at that time because no such finding of ancient human fossils had yet occurred in any country on the Asian continent.
The upper molar that was discovered in 1921 eventually was given the name “Peking Man” by A. William Grabau, an American Geologist. Its scientific name is Homo erectus pekinensis.
Getting to Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian
The site is open from 8:30 to 17:00.
Bus number 917 can be taken from Tianqiao Bus Station. Alight at Fangshan then hop on Loop-line 2 and get off at Zhoukoudian Station. From there, simply walk 150 meters to the site.
Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian News
Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian Tours
Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian Weather