June 28, 2000
So the team has arrived in China, and the excitement to see all that we can over the next few weeks is uncontrollable! In all the dispatches this week, we've hinted at the many sights that we will be visiting, attempting to give you a clear glimpse into what life is like in China today, as well as a look into China's diverse and rich history.
When we say "history," though, we bet you didn't know we'd be going back half a million years! Yup, here in the caves in "Dragon Bone Hill," near Choukoutien, fossils of early humans dating from 500,000 to 230,000 years ago were discovered. These early human fossils illustrate the process of evolution and have helped scientists to fill in the missing parts of the evolutionary "jigsaw puzzle."
So, who was Peking Man? And why is he so important? First of all, Peking Man is not just one guy. Rather, Peking Man is the name given to an extinct hominid of the species homo erectus. The Peking Man fossils were discovered in these caves about 30 miles southwest of Beijing. They were first excavated by a Canadian Professor named Davidson Black, who was working at the Peking Union Medical College. But Professor Black can't get all the credit for discovering these fossils. Back in 1903 a German professor was looking through a drawer full of teeth when…Wait! What? A drawer full of teeth?
So, this German professor had heard about the tales of "dragon's bones" and set out to investigate. He was at a store that sold these traditional herbal remedies and discovered a drawer full of fossil teeth. He came across one tooth that looked rather human. He asked the owner of the shop where it came from, and learned of the caves around Choukoutien. In 1921, hoping to discover more, he explored these caves and discovered some quartz pieces that he thought may have been used by early humans as cutting tools. Unfortunately, the quartz pieces were all he found, and without any more fossils, he had difficulty arguing his theories of early human existence.
So here's where Professor Black comes in to the story. In 1927, he found a hominid molar at the site, which supported the earlier assumptions about early human existence in the area. Later excavations uncovered 14 skullcaps, several facial, jaw and limb bones, and the teeth of about 40 individuals. These Peking Man specimens were classified as a type of homo erectus that had inhabited the area between 500,000 and 230,000 years ago.
Monica's Farewell: Trekking Out of India
Abeja - Confucius Says: Welcome to China
Yang-Yang - The World Trek in China Begins!
Kavitha - Buddhism? Here? Visiting the Yuantong Temple
Team - Making a Difference - Do As I Say, Not As I Do, And No, You Can't Have Any of My Weapons: Getting MAD About Nuclear Proliferation
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