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About Peiking Man Site

Peiking Man Site Index : Introduction | Discover Process | Localities | Significance
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Like other erect man who appeared in Middle Pleistocene, the skeletal morphology of Peking Man, excluding the skull, is rather similar to that of modern man. The only difference is that the perichondrial bone of the appendicular is thicker and the endochondral cavity smaller in Peking Man than in modern man. Based on femoral length, Peking man's height is about 156 cm for the male and 144 cm for the female. His skull, if compared with that of modern man is robust, low and flat, the supraorbital or eye brow is protruded forward, and the occipital bone is apparently of a sharp angle. The cranial capacity is larger compared with Homo abilis of South Africa and Java man of Indonesia, but smaller than that of modern man. The average cranial capacity of Peking Man is measured 1059 ml. The tooth of Peking Man is larger and more robust than that of Homo sapiens. An enamel ring, or cingulum, on the tooth crown is a characteristic of early man.

Anthropologists and archaeologists alike agree that the morphological evolution was slower than the change in the behaviour and ways of living. The tool making technology can be the important quantitative criterion to evaluate human progress. Archaeologists confirm that the development of stone tools made by Peking Man shows the progress of Peking Man better than his physical remains.

Besides Peking Man fossils, a lot of mammal fossils, artifacts, and ashes are also found at the site. They are excellent material for the study of human evolution and prehistory. The stone tools and the brought-in unused rock materials from outside are no less than 100,000 pieces and the examined items are more than 17,000 pieces. Peking Man makes tools with vein quartz, quartz crystals, flint, and sandstones. People of this cave not only use cobble and boulder as raw material but also collected vein quartz exposed by the weathering process in the fissures of limestone, coal, and granites. Peking Man applies three flaking techniques: Block-on-Block, or Anvil technique, direct percussion, and bipolar technique.
The artifacts' industries of Peking Man can be divided into three stages. In the early industry stage, the artifacts are mostly middle to large sized. The small sized tools are very rare. The tools are mostly made of quartz, but important tools were made of cobbles (pebble) of sand stone and others. In the middle industry stage, anvil technique was in fact discarded with the replacement of bipolar technique as main flaking techniques. The use of quartz very much increased and the trend of smaller tool making became apparent. The large and heavy tools became rare. In the late stage, the tools became even smaller. The stone tools are of better quality. In this period, the quality of raw rock materials for tool making was greatly improved. As a result, fine-grained milky white, or semi-translucent quartz, had definitely increased in number.

Another mark of Peking Man's cultural progress is the use of fire. At the locality there are four ash layers interspersed relatively widely. The uppermost ash layer is found on the huge limestone floor of the third layer west to Gezitang. There the limestone floor between the west-east walls of the cave stretches 12 metres in width with a thickness of about 5 metres. Two big piles of ash residues remained on this big limestone block. Peking Man utilized the limestone floor as their habitation site so the ash residue was deposited. This piling of ash suffices to tell Peking Man had the ability to control fire.

Middle upper ash layer, or the 4th layer, is very thick. The thickest part is more than 6 metres. In this ash layer, there was a large quantity of stone tools and fossils of micro mammals, i.e. rodents and bats etc. The middle lower ash layer is between Layer 8 and Layer 9. The thickest part is near the southern fissure and is 4 metres in thickness. Lower ash layer is at layer 10. The thickness of ash residue is around 1 metre. The ash residue appears purple, yellow, white, and black. The black materials were distributed usually at the bottom part and were easy to be differentiated from other sediments. Ash residue in colour is clear, the quality is not at all granules, contains much moisture, and is light when dehydrated.

Black material is treated chemically and the carbon is extracted. It is not of oxidized manganese. Among the black material of the bottom portion of Gezitang, semi-burnt charcoal was found. This, without a doubt, proves that the black material is a botanical carbon.

In the ash residue deposit, there was a quantity of burnt stone and charred bones. Burnt limestone turned into powder and charred bones changed colour of between various hues of black, purple, white, gray, and green etc. Some of them were cracked and have been transformed by fire. Charred hackberry seeds were found in quantity as well. Many of them were black, purple, and greyish white etc.
How did Peking Man know to make fire and control it? There is no conclusive answer to the question yet; however, our deductive thesis is as follows: in view of the primitive status, Peking Man could not invent fire-building, but he was able to get the kindling material from bush or prairie fires in the field. In nature, there are plenty of occasions of natural combustion: volcanic fire may catch up the surrounding plants, thunder and lightening may cause fire in forests, natural combustion may occur in thickly wooded areas. One could obtain kindling material from a bush fire by means of using a burning twig of a tree branch, or other combustible objects, and bring the kindling to the cave. Due to the scarcity of fire, preserving the fire after bringing back the kindling is valuable and important. One way to keep the fire is to add firewood or brushwood or to keep burnt charcoal under ash-earth cover in an idle state to preserve the fire, and when necessary it is essential to blow air underneath to expedite fire.

Peking Man's use of fire is a great achievement. The use of fire enabled defence of wild beasts in the cave. It also provided light during night, provided warmth in the habitation, and offered cooking of raw food which helped digestion, thereby promoted early man's physical condition and health.

The sporo-pollen analysis made it clear that the period when Peking Man resided at this site was during the interglacial period. It was almost similar as nowadays or slightly warmer. The field and mountain valley were vegetated with deciduous trees and grasslands. Mountains and hilly areas were abounding in coniferous trees.

In the temperate zone, there grew a great variety of species and families of trees. It not only supplied the firewood, but also edible fruits and seeds. Yet the hackberry seed that is found in the cave deposits was apparently a food of Peking Man. Sporo-pollen analysis proves that there were many species grown outside the cave such as nut, hazel nut, pine, elm, and rose etc. The fruits and seeds were the constituents of Peking Man's diet.

Hunting was an important means of early man's adaptation to environment. Because meat was the source of calories and protein supply needed for man, Peking Man not only depended on gathering, but also on hunting. According to nearly a hundred species of fossil mammals found in the cave, Peking Man could hunt small animals as well as large animals.

Since Peking Man could use tools, he could catch animals of his size. The deer fossil found inside the cave was calculated in terms of mandibles. The thick-jaw-bone deer amounted more than two thousand individuals. The Pseudaxis grayi amounted not less than one thousand individuals. The two species of deer must have been the major target for hunting by Peking Man. Analysis of the deer antlers shows that Peking Man hunted more of Peking sikine deer during the summer and early autumn and hunted the thick-jaw-bone deer in the early winter.

Peking Man was a cave dweller, tool maker, fire user, gatherer, and hunter. In view of fossil records and cultural remains, he was superb in his capability of adapting himself to environment with his adaption of physiological structure and technical ability.
Usually gatherer is a sort of simple labour carried out by a single individual, whereas hunting requires evidently complex work, especially when hunting large animals as it risks much danger. A cooperative plan and work are necessary among individuals, therefore it infers that Peking Man must have led a group life when hunting deer as we found various species of animal fossils in quantity. Early man hunters did not consume their game at the killing site, but carried it into the cave and shared it with other dwellers.
Due to physiological condition such as pregnancy and fostering, children and women could not participate in the hunt. Females especially could not hunt the animals which were larger and ran much faster than them. Therefore, perhaps Peking Man already reached to the stage of specialization of labour activities. Even today in hunting-gathering societies it is the male who engages actively in hunting and the female plays the role of gathering. Peking Man society started the mode of specialization of labour.

During the long 300 thousand year period, Peking Man's stone tool industry must have evolved progressively forward. Clearly, first practical education must have started within Peking Man society very early. Each generation can never develop a tool-making technique suddenly, and crude types of tools cannot be evolved to some sophisticated superb tools of much retouches, i.e. superb scrapers or a complicated pointed tool. In modern society as well, complicated and advanced technology is not accomplished without education and practise. Tool making techniques are transmitted from adult and an elderly person to the generation of younger age.

The longevity of Peking Man is quite short. After paleoanthropologists' statistical analysis, about 68.2% of Peking Man died before 14 years old, and only 4.5% of Peking Man lived longer than 50 years old. It seems that his living conditions were very hard.


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