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Peking Man at Zhoukoudian Cave

Site of those primeval Chinese the Peking Men or the Homo Erectus Pekinensis; 48 km south-west of Beijing –there's a dig-site here and a fossil Exhibition Hall and you'd have to be a fossil to stay at either for more than 10 minutes. On display are models, stone tools, the skeletons of prehistoric creatures and laborious explanations about the evolution of Peaking Man (basically Darwinian but given a Marxist twist - "labor created man"). The display was set up in 1953 and expanded in 1972.

There is an interesting story attached to the Peking Man skull fossil: earlier last century, villagers around Zhoukoudian found fossils in a local quarry and took them to the local medicine shop for sale as "dragon bones". This got back to Beijing, and archaeologists - foreign and Chinese- poured in for a dig. Many years later, a molar was extracted from the earth, and the hunt for a skull was on. They found him in the late afternoon on a day in December 1929, Sinanthropus Pekinensis - a complete skullcap.

The cap was believed to be half a million years old - if so then it rates as one the missing links in the evolutionary chain. Research on the skull was never carried out; when the Japanese invaded in 1937 the skullcap was packed away with other dig results and the whole lot vanished. The Chinese accused the Americans, the Americans accused the Japanese, and the mystery remains. Fortunately, after the founding of the People's Republic, partial remains of about 40 individuals (their strata date to 550,000 – 230,000 years ago) along with more than 100,000 stone artifacts and over one hundred kinds of animal fossils were dug up here. In 1987, the site was named a World Heritage site by the UNESCO.

The Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian (or The Peking Man Site Museum) is one of the most famous Homo erectus sites in the world, it is surrounding by some caves (including a small earthquake museum) and open 9 am to 4 pm. In theory you need a permit; in practice you could get a suburban train from Yong-dingmen Station, or a bus (No. 717) from the Tianqiao Bus Station (near Tianqiao Theatre, west side of Temple of Heaven) in Beijing City Center and alight at Zhoukoudian village (around 1 1/4 hours) and change the local minibus No. 2 toward the foot of hill. 

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