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Beijing man

Élisabeth Daynès

Jeongok Prehistory Museum

Jeongok Prehistory Museum

In the 1920s, some fossils excavated from an ancient cave at Zhoukoudian (near Beijing) in China were sold as precious medicinal substances called ‘dragon bones’. Later, they were surprisingly identified as fossil hominids. During the 1930s, an excavation-investigation was conducted at the cave in Zhoukoudian during which the fossils of forty individual human specimens were uncovered. Unfortunately, the fossils were lost during the Second World War, and only the replica of a cranium has been preserved. The fossils of Beijing Man exhibit the typical characteristics of H. erectus, such as a long cranium with an external occipital protuberance, an inclined forehead, and heavy brow ridges. The species was named ‘Beijing Man’ after the location of the discovery site. Through an archaeological analysis of the findings, including animal remains and pollen excavated together with the fossils, it was confirmed that the species lived about 400,000 to 500,000 years ago. In particular, as the remains of ashes were also found in the ground where the fossils were excavated, there is a great possibility that Beijing Man used fire. Beijing Man constitutes invaluable evidence to support the theory that H. erectus left Africa and adapted to diverse environments, and lived widely throughout Asia.

Place of Settlement: Around Beijing, China
Period: About 700,000-300,000 years ago
Discovery Site: The Lower Cave at Locality 1 of the Site at Zhoukoudian, near Beijing, in China
Species: Homo erectus
Cranial Capacity: 1043cc
Major Characteristics: Use of fire.

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