Bones of Man from 25,000 Years Ago Unearthed in China
Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Tuesday, July 08, 2003
Chinese scientists have unearthed the bones of a man who lived 25,000 years ago in a cave near the Beijing Zhoukoudian site. The find was the only existing human fossil from this period in Beijing.
Chinese scientists have unearthed the bones of a man who lived 25,000 years ago in a cave near the Beijing Zhoukoudian site.
The find was the only existing human fossil from this period in Beijing, said Chen Yiyu, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Monday.
The complete skull of a Beijing man from the same period was discovered in 1929, but was lost during the war against Japanese aggression from 1937 to 1945.
The skull was once recognized throughout the world as proof of the theory of evolution.
Chen said the new find provided important materials for the research of human evolution. The period from 20,000 to 100,000 years ago was an important period in the evolutionary history of modern mankind, especially in East Asia. The period was an important and controversial area of research in international academic circles, so human fossils of this period were extremely valuable.
In 2001, workers with Beijing Tianyuan forestry center discovered a cave (now named Tianyuan Cave) containing animal fossils while looking for a spring, said Zhu Min, head of CAS research center on ancient vertebrates and humans.
The unearthed human fossil, likely to be that of an adult male, is mostly in fragments, and the bones are separated from each other. The fossil consists of a mandible (with teeth), clavicles, shoulder bones, radius, vertebrae, thighbones, fibula, calcanei and phalanges. Several scattered teeth are also found, but they seem to belong to another individual. The age the adult and age the earth layer in which it was buried are to be identified.
The fossils of 26 mammals have been identified so far, mostly deer and hedgehog fossils. There are dark brown marks on some animal fossils, which are thought to be burn marks.
Rudimentary identification by CAS Academician Wu Xinzhi and other experts showed the human fossil was formed 25,000 years ago, belonging to the period of modern Homo sapiens anatomically in configuration. The animal fossils likely belong to the Epileistocene period, dating from 10,000 to 100,000 years ago.
Up to 63 percent of the mammal species discovered in Tianyuan Cave were also discovered in the Upper Cave, also on the Zhoukoudian site, but the fossils of hog-nosed badgers and musk deer only appeared in Tianyuan Cave.
So far, only half of the exposed area of the Tianyuan Cave site had been excavated, and there was still huge potential for new discoveries, Wu said.
Beijing Zhoukoudian site was among the first sites in China to enter UNESCO's World Heritage List. It is also the only site in the world to yield evidence of human activity and mankind's earliest use of fire 500,000 to 600,000 years ago. Chinese scientists have excavated 26 previous sites of academic value here since the 1920s.