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Top Choice 01/27/2015 World Heritage China Part 7- Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian


01-27-2015 21:56 BJT

World cultural heritage: Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian

Chinese name: Zhou Kou Dian Bei Jing Ren Yi Zhi

English name: Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian

Approval date: December 1987

Category: cultural heritage

Selection criteria: According to cultural and natural heritage selection criteria C(III)(VI), the Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian was included in the World Heritage List.

Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian

Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian

Evaluation of the World Heritage Committee:

The Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian is located 48 kilometers southwest of Beijing and the scientific investigation on it is still underway. So far, scientists have discovered that Chinese ape-man belongs to the "Peking Man" and they had lived in the Middle Pleistocene times. Meanwhile, scientists also found a variety of articles of daily use, as well as the relics of ancient people living between 18,000 B.C. and 11,000 B.C. The Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian is not only a piece of rare historical evidence for human society on the Asian continent during ancient times, but can also explain the process of human evolution.


The Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian is located in the Longgu Mountain in Zhoukoudian Village, Fangshan District, 48 kilometers to the southwest of Beijing. It lies between a mountain area and flatland area, adjoining the North China Plain in the southeast and mountainous region in the northwest. The mountainous land nearby Zhoukoudian Village is mostly composed of limestone and many large and small natural caves were formed through water erosion. There is a natural cave of about 140 meters long from east to west on the mountain, commonly known as the "Ape-man Cave." Since the relics of ancient humans were found in the cave in 1929, it has been called "the First Site at Zhoukoudian."

The Zhoukoudian Site is an important Paleolithic site in northern China and the most famous is the "the First Site at Zhoukoudian," namely the Peking Man Site. The site was first discovered by a Swedish scholar named Johan Gunnar Andersson in 1921 and the earliest site discovered at Zhoukoudian is the Sixth Site also discovered by Andersson. In 1921, Andersson, Walter W. Granger, an American paleontologist, and Otto Zdansky, an Austria paleontologist, jointly uncovered the First Site and the Second Site at Zhoukoudian. In 1927, Davidson Black officially named the three ancient human teeth founded in Zhoukoudian as "Homo erectus pekinensis," and in the same year, excavation work at the Zhoukoudian Site officially began. Chinese geologist Li Jie participated in the excavations and the Third and Fourth sites at Zhoukoudian were discovered, with Swedish paleontologist Anders Birger Bohlin being one of the founders of these sites. In 1929, Pei Wenzhong discovered the Fifth, Seventh, and Eighth sites, as well as the first skull bone of the Peking Man, causing a commotion worldwide. At the same year, with the Peking Man Site as the first site, other sites were named in order from the second to the ninth sites. Before finding the 20th Site, all the sites were discovered under the leadership of Pei or Jia Lanpo including the site of the Upper Cave Man. Sites from the 20th to 24th were found under the leadership of Jia.

After more than 80 years of intermittent excavations, the scientific investigation work of the Zhoukoudian Site is still ongoing. The First Site has been excavated over 40 meters deep, but that is less than half of the cave. The Peking Man fossils have been found in both the second and third layer, unearthing six bones, 12 fragments of skull bones, 15 mandibles, 157 teeth, seven femurs, one tibia, three humeri, one clavicle and one semilunar bone, as well as some fragments of skull and facial bones. These osseous remains of Peking Man were from about 40 individuals. However, the majority of fossils were lost around the attack on Pearl Harbor. The existing human fossils from the First Site preserved in China mainly include seven teeth, one humerus, one tibia, one parietal bone, one occipital bone, as well as a well-preserved mandible. The three teeth found before 1927 are in Sweden and preserved by Bohlin, who had participated in the excavation work at Zhoukoudian. The number and types of the fossils of ape-men, stoned artifacts, and mammalian fossils unearthed from the Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian, as well as the sites for the use of fire, are incomparable by other sites of the same times.

The fire sites found at the First Site at Zhoukoudian has brought the history of using fire by human beings forward for hundreds of thousands of years. Five ash layers which are six meters thick in the thickest part, three sites of ash heaps and a large number of burned bones were discovered at the First Site at Zhoukoudian. It made clear that the Peking Man not only knew how to use fire, but also know how to keep the fire burning.

There were also tens of thousands of stone artifacts unearthed from the site that are the key representative of the Peking Man culture. The Peking Man had created three different stone processing methods. They mainly smashed the stones into small pieces of between 20 and 40 millimeters and the stone tools were divided into two categories: One includes hammers used for hammering and smashing and drilling, while the other includes scrapping, sharpening, chopping and smashing, carving, coning and spherification tools. The raw materials were all from nearby and the stone products were mostly small. There were various types of stone artifacts and those from earlier times were a little larger, with the chopping and smashing tools being the most important. The stone artifacts gradually became smaller and the sharpening tools experienced rapid development. During the later times, the stone artifacts became even smaller and the stone awl was the most unique tool during this time.

The research shows that the Peking Man had lived 700,000 to 200,000 years ago. The average cranial capacity of Peking Man is 1,088 cc while that of the modern man is 1,400 cc. The average height of a male Peking Man was 156 centimeters and that of female Peking Man was 150 centimeters. The Peking Man belonged to the Stone Age and their main methods of processing stone artifacts was hammering and smashing, and occasionally striking. They caught and hunted large animals. According to statistics, they also had a short lifespan, with 68 percent dying before 14 years old, and less than 5 percent living past 50 years old. The early period of the Stone Age is considered to have elapsed 700,000 to 400,000 years ago, the middle period through 400,000 to 300,000 years ago, and the later period at 300,000 to 200,000 years ago. The Peking Man belonged to the primitive men between ape-man and Homo sapiens. These findings have a very important value in the biology, history and the history of human development.

Cultural heritage value:

The discovery of the Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian shocked China and the whole world

The discovery of the Peking Man provided a large number of convincing evidence for the origins of man. Many facts have shown that the Peking Man lived between 500,000 and 200,000 years ago, and belonged to the primitive men evolving between ape-man and Homo sapiens.. The discovery is very valuable in the study of biology, history and the development of the human beings.

The discovery opened the early chapter of the human history

In the early period of the Paleolithic Age, the Peking Man had learned to make stone artifacts and used them as weapons or primitive production tools, improving themselves against nature. This indicates that they had learned to use primitive production tools for labor work, which is the fundamental difference between mankind and ape.

The discovery brought the history of fire usage by humans forward by hundreds of thousands of years

In the caves where the Peking Man had lived, layers of thick colorful ashes were found, with its thickness reaching four to six meters. This shows that the Peking Man had learned how to use fire, control fire, and preserve the fire, and this is an important sign that human beings had evolved from animal creatures into civilized species.

The discovery provided evidence for studying the evolvement of Beijing’s ecological environment

By studying the Peking Man and their surrounding natural environment, it showed that the geology and landform of Beijing about 500,000 years ago is similar to Beijing now. There were dense forests in the mountains and hills, with many kinds of animals. However, the land was once covered by large grassland and desert with the remains of ostriches and camels. All evidence indicates that Beijing once experienced warm and humid as well as cold and dry climates during the past years.

The discovery and study of the Peking Man and its culture solved the argument of whether the homo erectus is an ape or man, which has puzzled the scientific community for nearly half a century since the ancient man at Java was discovered in 19th century. Facts prove that in the early period of human history, there was indeed a period of Homo erectus judging from the evidence of physical characters, cultural characteristics and social organizations. Homo erectus were the descendants of the Australopithecus and also the ancestor of Homo sapiens. The Homo erectus is an important central link in human evolution from apes to man. So far, the shape of Peking Man at Zhoukoudian has still been considered as the typical shape of the Homo erectus, and the Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian is still the site with most abundant, systematic and valuable materials among all of the Palaeoanthropic sites during the same period around the world. The Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian is a well-deserved treasury of the ancient human culture.

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