Peking Man debate on CARM, message 3

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                                Re: Pekin Man

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Posted by Helen on June 21, 1998 at 13:42:33:

In Reply to: Re: Pekin Man posted by Jim Foley on June 21, 1998 at 01:04:07:


What I got from Encyclopedia Britannica was the following:

Peking man was identified as a new fossil hominid by Davidson Black in 1927
on the basis of a single tooth. Later excavations yielded 14 skullcaps,
several mandibles, facial bones and limb bones and the teeth of about 40
individuals. ...a skull flat in profile but with a small forehead, a
sagittal ridge on top of the head for attachment of powerful jaw musciles,
very thick skull bones, heavy browridges, an occipital torus, a large
palate, a a large, chinless jaw. The teeth are essentially human, though the
canines and molars are quite large, and the enamel of the molars is often
wrinkled. The limb bones are indistinguishable from those of modern man.
Core tools, primitive flaked tools, worked-bone tools, charred animals
bones, and the remains of hearths found in association with these hominid
bones show that Peking man had a well-developed communal culture, practiced
hunting, and used fire domestically.(Macropaedia, vol VII, 1984, p. 836)

Jim, take a look at that nonsense. What limb bones were found? Barely
anything! But they were "indistinguishable from those of modern man." And
the teeth? Well, of course they were men's, EXCEPT for the large canines and
molars and wrinkled enamel. Gee, what else is like that?

Remains of hearths? Found with charred animal bones? Is that a slight nod
towards the fact that Breuil reported 24 FEET in thickness of ashes, and
that they were in ribboned layers indicating the burning of different things
at different times? Or that the remains of the other animals found with
these bits of bone numbered in the tens of thousands, and included all body
parts represented? As Bowden states, "Breuil concludes that the skulls
alone, stripped of their flesh by decay, had been brought back to the place
of habitation." (p. 102)

IF (and that is a very large "if" considering the condition of the skull cap
pieces that had to be reassembled) the cranial capacity of Pekin man was
truly an average of about 1000 cc. then there is good reason to include them
with H. sapiens, which Lubenow does ON THAT BASIS. However, the point of the
quotes by Bowden, which I referred to, is that ALL of those who first saw
the one in tact skull cap considered it quite small, and, by inference, NOT
H. sapien.

Taylor writes this: "In 1929, after two years of digging and again just as
funds were running out, an almost complete brain case was discovered
fossilized and embedded in rock; there was no face, jaw, or base. Black
fervently believed that this was indeed the skull of Sinanthropus
pekinensis, the name he had previously coined on the basis of the single
tooth found earlier. When the fossil was freed from the rock, Black
estimated the brain capacity to be just under 1,000 cubic centimeters, which
happens to be midway between ape and man. However, the other experts,
Teilhard de Chardin, Grafton Elliot Smith, Marcellin Boule, and later von
Koenigswald, who were all as anxious as Black to find the missing link, were
sure, once they had seen the actual fossil, that Black's estimate for the
brain capacity was too high. Their first imparession was that it was more
ape-like than human, and in a number of repsects it was said to be very
similar to the skullcap found by Dubois in Java; both of these skulls have
since been reclassified as Homo erectus." (p. 236) [By the way, Dubois, just
before his death, confessed that Java man was a large ape -- Weidenreich,
1938, as referenced by Taylor, p. 238]

Now, reclassification aside, which might be a matter of wishful thinking,
especially since the original material is no longer available, the reports
are that 1000 cc was too large an estimate.

Taylor also reports the following: "Another notable visit to Chou K'ou Tien,
at the invitaiton of Teilhard de Chardin, was his old professor from Paris,
Marcellin Boule; however when he actually saw Sinanthropus pekinensis, he
was angry hat having traveled halfway around the world to see a battered
monkey skull. He pointed out that all the evidence indicated that true man
was in charge of some sort of 'industry' and that the skulls found were
merely those of monkeys. It was further suggested at the time that the
absence of the rest of the skeleton and the battered condition of the skulls
were the result of the monkey brains having been eaten by the human workers,
as indeed, this is still practiced as a delicacy in Southeast Asia to this
day. Boule concluded with the comment: 'We may therfore ask ourselves
whether or not it is over-bold to consider Sinanthropus " [now called Homo
erectus pekinensis] the monarch of Chou K'ou Tien when he appears in its
deposit only in the guise of a mere hunter's prey, on a par with the animals
by which he is accompanied' (Boule and Vallois 1957, 145)." (Taylor, p. 240)

From the previous exchange between us:

     >> 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.

Don't you think that "pretty nondescript" fossils must be reconstructed
using a lot of imagination? Perhaps their strong desire to have Pekin man
represent what they wanted it to represent might have had something to do
with it? Only part of ONE braincase was found in tact, and this without the
face or jaw. Everything else was in shambles. It seems to me that
imagination might have had a very large role in the reconstructions. I refer
you to the next part of our previous exchange:

     >> 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).

Well, I say all that are left are reconstructions, to which you say no, we
have a reconstruction..... That part I found a little baffling....

His best guess at missing parts -- what did he WANT it to be? I think that
might have influenced his "best guess." The casts that are available of the
missing bones are what? The one section of skull cap and some jaws? This is
no big help, I don't think. What did they make the casts of? What else was
there to make the casts of, besides battered pieces of skull and some

Nor are the ten skeletons simply a "minor mystery!" The following is a quote
from Bowden's book, pp 95-96 --

IN the "Daily Telegraph" of 16th December 1929 appeared a very lengthy
article from their Pekin correspondent. This stated that the fossilized
bones of ten men, together with a perfect skull (complete with facial bones)
had been discovered. An announcement had been made by Davidson Black and
other officials of the geological survey of China who were preparing a
scientific statement for release to a Convention, which was to be held in
Pekin on 23rd December. The skeletons had been found in the cave at the
Choukoutien site by the Chinese assistant, Pei. They were found huddled
together and this was said to indicate that they led a community life.

Davidson Black had studied the skull and was convinced '...that the "Pekin
man" was a thinking being, standing erect, dating to the beginning of the
Ice Age.' Interviews with Dr. Elliott Smith and Sir Arthur Keith accompanied
the article. The interview with Sir Arthur Keith was of more interest, for
here was sounded the first note of caution about this particular discovery.
The report ;mentions that he '...appeared a little sceptical as to the
statement of the "petrified bones of ten men"'. 'Discoveries are not made in
this way,' he said. As all fossil remains of ape men had been (and still
are) very fragmentary, he was clearly suspicious of ten virtually compolete
skeletons being found, and he would not make any further comment until he
had seen the official details of the discoveries.

A very similar report to that in the "Daily Telegraph" appeared in the "New
York Times" of 16th December with the added informaiton that nine of the ten
skeletons were headless [!] and that the experts were seeking the other
skulls, whose absence they could not explian. Two other American experts,
however, accepted the discoveries very cautiously, vor in the "New Tork
Times" on 17th December Walter Granger said that "if the finds were
authentic", he thought they would have used implements and that they were
probably also 'familiar with fire...'. IN the "New York Times" on the 18th
December, Dr. Ales Hrdlicka doubted if the bones were as old as one million
years' age claimed for them, in view of the number of skeletons found and
their headless condition which indicated modern head hunting practices.

"Nature" announced the discovery in its issue of 28th December and that Dr.
Davidson Black would be making an official statment on the discoveries 29th

Clearly, something very important had been discovered in Pekin. With all
this worldwide publicity the state was set for a detailed report of these
skeletons, proving that man was descended from an ape ancestor.

What actually happened?


These skeletons are simply not referred to in ANY report, periodical or
reference book dealing with Pekin man! It is as if these newspaper headlines
had never existed. Indeed, the only fossil later referred to as being
discovered in early December is Pei's Locus E. skull CAP. No other bones are
ever mentioned.

....This strange incident does raise one question. Why has no 'scientist,'
author or journalist of integrity ever referred to these reports of ten
skeletons and questions what happened to them? For example, why did the
editor of "Nature" never query what happened to the important skeletons
whose discovery he had announced in his periodical? Is it perhaps an
accepted principle in the world of anthropology that the persistent asking
of awkward questions is not encouraged -- indeed, positively discouraged?

But the publication of the reports of these ten skeletons did have one
effect: they established very firmly in some minds the idea that Pekin man
was now dissociated from the possibility of "monkeyhood" and was associated
with men. If nothing else, the reports did that.

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