Peking Man debate on CARM, message 2

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                                Re: Pekin Man

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Posted by Jim Foley on June 21, 1998 at 01:04:07:

In Reply to: Pekin Man posted by Helen on June 20, 1998 at 00:13:43:

Helen said:

>> Jim Foley asked me, Were you suggesting that the Peking Man skulls
>> were monkeys?

>> Coming from me it would mean nothing. But evidently the first series
>> of skulls were considered to be monkeys by those who first saw them:

If you read the next paragraph carefully, you will find no such claim:

>> Grafton Elliot Smith visited the site in October of 1930. On his
>> return to England, he wrote an article in Antiquity 1931, March,
>> vol. 5, no 17, pp 20-36. In the article was a photo of the Locus E
>> skull (the only one that had not been smashed in pieces, although it
>> was only a brain case, and lacked the jaw and face), and he noted "the
>> surprisingly small brain capacity [p34]. Again, he said the brain case
>> displayed "in an even more emphatic way the thickness of the skull and
>> the diminutive size of the space for the brain."

>> Teilhard, Breuil, and von Koenigswald all also commented on the small
>> cranium at different times.

But none of them said it was a monkey, or even an ape, did they? The
skullcap _did_ have a small brain -- for a human. Many living humans
have small brains too, a few of them even smaller than the first
Peking Man skullcap, but that doesn't make them monkeys.

>> Professor Boule was very angry that the only evidence he was shown
>> for the widely publicized find was a battered monkey's skull.

Bowden cites O'Connell for this claim, and O'Connell refers to Boule's
1937 article in L'Anthropologie. Here is what Boule *really* said (my
translation, which is somewhat stilted because I have translated as
literally as I can):

"It is nonetheless evident that, by the volume of their brain as by
what we know of the anatomical structure of their skull, Sinanthropus
and his brother Pithecanthropus are interposed, in the series of superior
primates, between the great apes and the Hominiens".


"In this regard [the development of the brain], the small new group
that we are studying [Peking Man and Java Man] is exactly
intermediate, since its average cerebral volume is 1000 cc, superior
by 400 cc to the maximum volume of the apes, which is 600 cc, inferior
by the same quantity to the current human average which is 1400 cc."

That sure doesn't sound like someone who is angrily dismissing the
fossils as "battered monkey skulls", does it? Clearly, Boule did not
consider Peking Man a monkey, or even an ape, but intermediate between
apes and humans.

In other words, you have been lied to.

>> He denounced Teilhard and ridiculed the idea that the owners of the
>> skulls would have been responsible for the tools found nearby. In
>> his book Fossil Men he considers these skulls the remains of prey,
>> as are the remains of the animal parts found with them.

There is some truth in this part. Boule *did* disagree with Teilhard
about whether the owners of the skulls could have made the tools. I'm
not sure why, since Teilhard's point that the skulls were larger than
those of some living humans (and hence there is no reason to think
they couldn't have made tools) seems perfectly reasonable. I wouldn't
say this disagreement was strong enough to warrant the terms
"denounced" and "ridiculed", however. However this issue is
independent of what exactly Boule considered Peking Man to be.

>> In fact, the only time the capacity of almost 1000 cc. is reported is
>> when Black measured a reconstruction of the skull, and Weidenreich's
>> remeasurement of the same reconstruction in 1943.

Everyone who measured the skull got between 900 and 1000 cc. This is
small for a human, so is consistent with the descriptions of Teilhard
and the others you mentioned.

>> Dr. von Koenigswald later is quoted as saying, "We must be grateful
>> to Weidenreich for leaving such excellent descriptions of all the
>> material. Indeed, I believe that many people who have admired the
>> splendid drawings and photographs in his books would be
>> disappointed if they saw the originals." [Koenigswald, G.H.R. von
>> 1956. Meeting Prehistoric Man, Thames and Hudson.]

>> Evidently the reconstruction is not quite like the original....

I see no reason to think that. von K is, I imagine, merely praising
the skill with Weidenreich was able to extract information from
fossils which may have looked pretty nondescript.

>> At any rate, all that are left are reconstructions.

No. We have a reconstruction by Weidenreich, which, because it
includes his best guess at missing parts, is somewhat hypothetical.
We also have exact casts of the original bones (i.e. molded copies,
with _no_ reconstructed material). We also have photos, X-rays, and
painstaking descriptions (over 1000 pages worth by Weidenreich, one of
the best anatomists in the world).

>> Not only have all the fossils disappeared, presumably in the
>> confusion of WWII, but the mysterious ten claimed skeletons of
>> Dec. 1929 also disappeared without a trace or a word, and this long
>> before WWII.

In mid-December 1929, some newspapers published stories that 10
skeletons, including one skull, had been found at the Peking Man
site. The skull is almost surely the first Peking Man skull, which was
discovered Dec 2, 1929. The "ten skeletons" are a minor mystery.
Some accounts refer only to fragments or remains from 10 individuals
including one skull, which a reporter may have extrapolated to mean
ten skeletons, nine of them headless. I suspect there must have been
some sort of journalistic screwup that led to the printing of some articles
based on erroneous information.

>> So I think we can consider the fact that yes, Sinanthropus was a
>> monkey.

Except that most of the evidence Helen presented didn't really address
what Sinanthropus was, and the bit that did (Boule's "opinion") was
blatantly fabricated.

>> My references for the above include but are not limited to Malcolm
>> Bowden's Ape-Men, Fact or Fallacy, Ian Taylor's In the Minds of Men,
>> Lubenow's Bones of Contention and the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Most of it seems to come from Bowden, although Taylor may well say the
same. If the Encyclopedia Brittanica says anything about PM being a
monkey, I'll eat it. And having spoken to him, I can tell you that
Lubenow finds such claims rather embarrassing. I'd like to know
which bits of your article were derived from Lubenow.


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