10 - BEIJING MAN AND
OTHER FINDS IN CHINA
Transformation of the
An Historic Find and a
Fire and Tools at Zhoukoudian
Signs of Cannibalism
The Fossils Disappear A Case
of Intellectual Dishonesty
Dating by Morphology
Further Discoveries in China
After the discoveries of Java man and Piltdown man, ideas about
human evolution remained unsettled. Dubois's Pithecanthropus erectus
fossils did not win complete acceptance among the scientific
community, and Piltdown simply complicated the matter. Scientists
waited eagerly for the next important discoveries—which they hoped
would clarify the evolutionary development of the Hominidae. Many
thought the desired hominid fossils would be found in China.
The ancient Chinese called fossils dragon bones. Believing dragon
bones to possess curative powers, Chinese druggists have for
centuries powdered them for use in remedies and potions. For early
Western paleontologists, Chinese drug shops therefore provided an
unexpected hunting ground.
In 1900, Dr. K. A. Haberer collected mammalian fossils from Chinese
druggists and sent them to the University of Munich, where they were
studied and catalogued by Max Schlosser. Among the specimens,
Schlosser found a tooth from the Beijing area that appeared to be a
"left upper-third molar, either of a man or hitherto unknown
Schlosser suggested China would be a good place to
search for primitive man.
Among those who agreed with Schlosser was Gunnar Andersson, a
Swedish geologist employed by the Geological Survey of China. In
1918, Andersson visited a place called Chikushan, or Chicken Bone
Hill, near the village of Zhoukoudian, 25 miles southwest of
Beijing. There, on the working face of an old limestone quarry, he
saw a fissure of red clay containing fossil bones, indicating the
presence of an ancient cave, now filled in.
In 1921, Andersson again visited the Chikushan site. He was
accompanied by Otto Zdansky, an Austrian paleontologist who had been
sent to assist him, and Walter M. Granger, of the American Museum of
Natural History. Their first excavations were not very productive,
resulting only in the discovery of some fairly recent fossils.
Then some of the local villagers told Zdansky about a nearby place
with bigger dragon bones, near the small Zhoukoudian railway
station. Here Zdansky found another limestone quarry, the walls of
which, like the first, had fissures filled with red clay and broken
bones. Andersson visited the site and discovered some broken pieces
of quartz, which he thought might be very primitive tools.
did not occur naturally at the site, so Andersson reasoned that the
quartz pieces must have been brought there by a hominid. Zdansky,
who did not get along very well with Andersson, disagreed with this
Andersson, however, remained convinced. Looking at the limestone
wall, he said, "I have a feeling that there lies here the remains of
one of our ancestors and it's only a question of finding him." He
asked Zdansky to keep searching the filled-in cave, saying, "Take
your time and stick to it until the cave is emptied if need be."
In 1921 and 1923, Zdansky, somewhat reluctantly, conducted brief
excavations. He uncovered signs of an early human precursor—two
teeth, tentatively dated to the Early Pleistocene. The teeth, a
lower premolar and an upper molar, were crated up with other fossils
and shipped to Sweden for further study. Back in Sweden, Zdansky
published a paper in 1923 on his work in China, with no mention of
There the matter rested until 1926. In that year, the Crown Prince
of Sweden, who was chairman of the Swedish China Research Committee
and a patron of paleontological research, planned to visit Beijing.
Professor Wiman of the University of Uppsala, asked Zdansky, his
former student, if he had come across anything interesting that
could be presented to the Prince. Zdansky sent Wiman a report, with
photographs, about the teeth he had found at Zhoukoudian.
was presented by J. Gunnar Andersson to a meeting in Beijing,
attended by the Crown Prince. Andersson declared in regard to the
"The man I predicted had been found."
Another person who thought Zdansky's teeth represented clear
evidence of fossil man was Davidson Black, a young Canadian
physician residing in Beijing.
Davidson Black graduated from the University of Toronto medical
school in 1906. But he was far more interested in human evolution
than medicine. Black believed humans had evolved in northern Asia,
and he desired to go to China to find the fossil evidence to prove
this theory. But the First World War delayed his plans.
In 1917, Black joined the Canadian military medical corps.
Meanwhile, a friend, Dr. E. V. Cowdry, was named head of the anatomy
department at the Rockefeller Foundation's Beijing Union Medical
College. Cowdry asked Dr. Simon Flexner, director of the Rockefeller
Foundation, to appoint Black as his assistant. Flexner did so, and
in 1919, after his release from the military, Black arrived in
Beijing. At the Beijing Union Medical College, Black did everything
possible to minimize his medical duties so he could concentrate on
his real interest—paleoanthropology. In November 1921, he went on a
brief expedition to a site in northern China, and other expeditions
followed. Black's superiors were not pleased.
But gradually the Rockefeller Foundation would be won over to
Black's point of view. The series of events that caused this change
to take place is worth looking into.
Late in 1922, Black submitted a plan for a Thailand expedition to
Dr. Henry S. Houghton, director of the medical school. Black
expertly related his passion for paleoanthropology to the mission of
the medical school.
Houghton wrote to Roger Greene, the school's
"While I cannot be certain that the project which
Black has in mind is severely practical in its nature, I must
confess that I have been deeply impressed by . . . the valuable
relationship he has been able to establish between our department of
anatomy and the various institutions and expeditions which are doing
important work in China in the fields which touch closely upon
anthropology research. With these points in mind I recommend the
granting of his request."
Here can be seen the importance of the
intellectual prestige factor—ordinary medicine seems quite
pedestrian in comparison with the quasi-religious quest for the
secret of human origins, a quest that had, since Darwin's time,
fired the imaginations of scientists all over the world. Houghton
was clearly influenced. The expedition took place during Black's
summer vacation in 1923, but unfortunately produced no results.
In 1926, Black attended the scientific meeting at which J. Gunnar
Andersson presented to the Crown Prince of Sweden the report on the
molars found by Zdansky at Zhoukoudian in 1923.
Excited on learning
of the teeth, Black accepted a proposal by Andersson for further
excavations at Zhoukoudian, to be carried out jointly by the
Geological Survey of China and Black's department at the Beijing
Union Medical School. Dr. Amadeus Grabau of the Geological Survey of
China called the hominid for which they would search "Beijing man."
Black requested funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, and to his
delight he received a generous grant.
By spring 1927, work was underway at Zhoukoudian, in the midst of
the Chinese civil war. During several months of painstaking
excavation, there were no discoveries of any hominid remains.
Finally, with the cold autumn rains beginning to fall, marking the
end of the first season's digging, a single hominid tooth was
uncovered. On the basis of this tooth, and the two previously
reported by Zdansky (now in Black's possession), Black decided to
announce the discovery of a new kind of fossil hominid. He called it
Black was eager to show the world his discovery. In the course of
his travels with his newly found tooth, Black discovered that not
everyone shared his enthusiasm for Sinanthropus. For example, at the
annual meeting of the American Association of Anatomists in 1928,
some of the members heavily criticized Black for proposing a new
genus on so little evidence.
Black kept making the rounds, showing the tooth to Ales Hrdlicka in
the United States and then journeying to England, where he met Sir
Arthur Keith and Sir Arthur Smith Woodward. At the British Museum,
Black had casts made of the Beijing man molars, for distribution to
other workers. This is the kind of propaganda work necessary to
bring a discovery to the attention of the scientific community. Even
for a scientist political skills are not unimportant.
On returning to China, Black kept in close touch with the
excavations at Zhoukoudian. For months nothing turned up. But Black
wrote to Keith on December 5, 1928:
"It would seem that there is a
certain magic about the last few days of the season's work for again
two days before it ended Bohlin found the right half of the lower
jaw of Sinanthropus with the three permanent molars in situ."
TRANSFORMATION OF THE ROCKEFELLER FOUNDATION
Now a financial problem loomed. The Rockefeller Foundation grant
that supported the digging would run out in April of 1929. So in
January Black wrote the directors, asking them to support the
Zhoukoudian excavations by creating a Cenozoic Research Laboratory
(the Cenozoic includes the periods from the Paleocene to the
Holocene). In April, Black received the funds he desired.
Just a few years before, Rockefeller Foundation officials had
actively discouraged Black from becoming too involved in
paleoanthropological research. Now they were backing him to the
hilt, setting up an institute specifically devoted to searching for
remains of fossil human ancestors. Why had the Rockefeller
Foundation so changed its attitude toward Black and his work?
question bears looking into, because the financial contribution of
foundations would turn out to be vital to human evolution research
carried out by scientists like Black. Foundation support would also
prove important in broadcasting the news of the finds and their
significance to the waiting world.
As Warren Weaver, a scientist and Rockefeller Foundation official,
wrote in 1967:
"In a perfect world an idea could be born, nourished,
developed and made known to everyone, criticized and perfected, and
put to good use without the crude fact of financial support ever
entering into the process. Seldom, if ever, in the practical world
in which we live, does this occur."
For Weaver, biological questions were of the highest importance. He
regarded the highly publicized particle accelerators and space
exploration programs as something akin to scientific fads. He added:
"The opportunities not yet rigorously explored lie in the
understanding of the nature of living things. It seemed clear in
1932, when the Rockefeller Foundation launched its quarter-century
program in that area, that the biological and medical sciences were
ready for a friendly invasion by the physical sciences. . . . the
tools are now available for discovering, on the most disciplined and
precise level of molecular actions, how man's central nervous system
really operates, how he thinks, learns, remembers, and forgets. . .
Apart from the fascination of gaining some knowledge of the nature
of the mind-brain-body relationship, the practical values in such
studies are potentially enormous. Only thus may we gain information
about our behavior of the sort that can lead to wise and beneficial
It thus becomes clear that at the same time the Rockefeller
Foundation was channeling funds into human evolution research in
China, it was in the process of developing an elaborate plan to fund
biological research with a view to developing methods to effectively
control human behavior. Black's research into Beijing man must be
seen within this context in order to be properly understood.
Over the past few decades, science has developed a comprehensive
cosmology that explains the origin of human beings as the
culmination of a 4-billion-year process of chemical and biological
evolution on this planet, which formed in the aftermath of the Big
Bang, the event that marked the beginning of the universe some 16
billion years ago. The Big Bang theory of the origin of the
universe, founded upon particle physics and astronomical
observations suggesting we live in an expanding cosmos, is thus
inextricably connected with the theory of the biochemical evolution
of all life forms, including human beings.
The major foundations,
especially the Rockefeller Foundation, provided key funding for the
initial research supporting this materialistic cosmology, which has
for all practical purposes pushed God and the soul into the realm of
mythology—at least in the intellectual centers of modern
All this is quite remarkable, when one considers that John D.
Rockefeller's charity was initially directed toward Baptist churches
and missions. Raymond D. Fosdick, an early president of the
Rockefeller Foundation, said that both Rockefeller and his chief
financial adviser, Baptist educator Frederick T. Gates, were
"inspired by deep religious conviction."
In 1913, the present Rockefeller Foundation was organized. The
trustees included Frederick T. Gates; John D. Rockefeller, Jr.; Dr.
Simon Flexner, head of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical
Research; Henry Pratt Judson, president of the University of
Chicago; Charles William Eliot, former president of Harvard; and A.
Barton Hepburn, president of the Chase National Bank. Alongside this
new foundation, other Rockefeller charities continued to operate.
At first, the Rockefeller Foundation concentrated its attention on
public health, medicine, agriculture, and education, avoiding
anything controversial. Thus the Foundation began to distance itself
from religion, particularly the Baptist Church.
Exactly why this
happened is difficult to say. Perhaps Rockefeller was coming to
realize that his fortune was founded on exploiting the advances of
modern science and technology. Perhaps it was the increasing role
that science was beginning to play in the objects of traditional
charitable giving—such as medicine. But whatever the reason,
Rockefeller began to staff his foundation with scientists, and the
giving policies reflected this change.
Even Gates, the former Baptist educator, seemed to be changing his
tune. He wanted to create a nonsectarian university in China. But he
noted that the "missionary bodies at home and abroad were distinctly
and openly, even threateningly hostile to it as tending to
infidelity." Furthermore, the Chinese government wanted control, an
idea that the Foundation could not support.
Charles W. Eliot, who had overseen the Harvard Medical School in
Shanghai, proposed a solution: a medical college, which would serve
as an opening to the rest of Western science. Here mechanistic
science shows itself a quiet but nevertheless militant ideology,
skillfully promoted by the combined effort of scientists, educators,
and wealthy industrialists, with a view towards establishing
worldwide intellectual dominance.
The medical college strategy outlined by Eliot worked. The Chinese
government approved establishment of the Beijing Union Medical
College under Foundation auspices. Meanwhile, Dr. Wallace Buttrick,
director of Rockefeller's newly created China Medical Board,
negotiated with the Protestant mission hospitals already in China.
He agreed to provide financial support for these hospitals, in
effect bribing them.
In 1928, the Rockefeller Foundation and other Rockefeller charities
underwent changes to reflect the growing importance of scientific
research. All programs "relating to the advance of human knowledge"
were shifted to the Rockefeller Foundation, which was reorganized
into five divisions: international health, medical sciences, natural
sciences, social sciences, and the humanities.
The change reached right to the top, with Dr. Max Mason, a scientist
himself, taking over as president. Mason, a mathematical physicist,
was formerly president of the University of Chicago.
Raymond D. Fosdick, Mason,
"emphasized the structural unity involved
in the new orientation of program. It was not to be five programs,
each represented by a division of the Foundation; it was to be
essentially one program, directed to the general problem of human
behavior, with the aim of control through understanding."
Beijing man research therefore took place within the larger
framework of the explicitly stated goal of the Rockefeller
Foundation, which reflected the implicit goal of big
science—control, by scientists, of human behavior.
AN HISTORIC FIND AND A COLD-BLOODED CAMPAIGN
With the financial backing of the Rockefeller Foundation for the
Cenozoic Research Laboratory secure, Black resumed his travels for
the purpose of promoting Beijing man. He then returned to China,
where work was proceeding slowly at Zhoukodian, with no new major
Sinanthropus finds reported. Enthusiasm seemed to be waning among
But then on the first of December, at the very end of the season,
Pei Wenzhong made an historic find. Pei later wrote:
the almost complete skull of Sinanthropus. The specimen was imbedded
partly in loose sands and partly in a hard matrix so that it was
possible to extricate it with relative ease."
Pei then rode 25 miles
on a bicycle to the Cenozoic Research Laboratory, where he presented
the skull to Black.
The discovery made Black a media sensation. In September of 1930,
Sir Grafton Elliot Smith arrived in Beijing to inspect the site of
the discovery and examine the fossils. During Smith's stay, Black
primed him for a propaganda blitz in America on behalf of Beijing
man. Smith then departed and apparently did his job well.
December, Black wrote an extremely candid letter to Dr. Henry
Houghton, director of the Beijing medical school, who was
vacationing in America:
"If I blushed every time I thought of the
cold-blooded advertising campaign I thought of and G. E. S. has
carried through, I'd be permanently purple."
Black's newly won fame insured continued access to Rockefeller
Foundation funds. Black wrote to Sir Arthur Keith:
"We had a cable
from Elliot Smith yesterday so he is evidently safe home after his
strenuous trip. He characteristically has not spared himself in
serving the interests of the Survey and the Cenozoic Laboratory and
after his popularizing Sinanthropus for us in America I should have
a relatively easy task before me a year from now when I will have to
ask for more money from the powers that be."
Beijing man had come at just the right moment for advocates of human
evolution. A few years previously, in one of the most famous trials
in the world's history, a Tennessee court had found John T. Scopes
guilty of teaching evolution in violation of state law. Scientists
wanted to fight back hard. Thus any new evidence bearing on the
question of human evolution was highly welcome.
Then there had been the matter of Hesperopithecus, a highly
publicized prehistoric ape-man constructed in the minds of
paleoanthropologists from a single humanlike tooth found in
Nebraska. To the embarrassment of the scientists who had promoted
this human ancestor, the humanlike tooth had turned out to be that
of a fossil pig.
Meanwhile, the lingering doubts and continuing controversy about
Dubois's Pithecanthropus erectus also needed to be resolved.
short, scientists in favor of evolutionary ideas, reacting to
external threat and internal disarray, were in need of a good
discovery to rally their cause.
FIRE AND TOOLS AT ZHOUKOUDIAN
It was in 1931 that reports showing extensive use of fire and the
presence of well-developed stone and bone tools at Zhoukoudian were
first published. What is quite unusual about these announcements is
that systematic excavations had been conducted at Zhoukoudian by
competent investigators since 1927, with no mention of either fire
or stone tools.
For example, Black wrote in 1929:
of cubic meters of material from this deposit have been examined, no
artifacts of any nature have yet been encountered nor has any trace
of the usage of fire been observed."
But only a couple of years
later, other researchers, such as Henri Breuil, were reporting thick
beds of ash and were finding hundreds of stone tools in the exact
In 1931, Black and others, apparently embarrassed by the new
revelations about fire and tools from Zhoukoudian, sought to explain
how such important evidence had for several years escaped their
attention. They said they had noticed signs of fire and tools but
they had been so uncertain about them they did not mention them in
Concerning the failure of Teilhard de Chardin, Black,
others to report abundant tools and signs of fire at Zhoukoudian,
there are two possible explanations. The first is the one they
themselves gave—they simply overlooked the evidence or had so many
doubts about it that they did not feel justified in reporting it.
The second possibility is that they were very much aware of the
signs of fire and stone tools, before Breuil reported them, but
deliberately withheld this information.
But why? At the time the discoveries were made at Zhoukoudian, fire
and stone tools at a site were generally taken as signs of Homo
sapiens or Neanderthals. According to Dubois and von Koenigswald, no
stone tools or signs of usage of fire were found in connection with
Pithecanthropus erectus in Java. The Selenka expedition did report
remnants of hearths at Trinil, but this information did not attain
So perhaps the original investigators of Zhoukoudian purposefully
held back from reporting stone tools and fire because they were
aware such things might have confused the status of Sinanthropus.
Doubters might have very well attributed the fire and tools to a
being contemporary with, yet physically and culturally more advanced
than Sinanthropus, thus removing Sinanthropus from his position as a
new and important human ancestor.
As we shall see, that is what did happen once the tools and signs of
fire became widely known.
For example, Breuil said in 1932 about the
relationship of Sinanthropus to the tools and signs of fire:
"Several distinguished scientists have independently expressed to me
the thought that a being so physically removed from Man. . . . was
not capable of the works I have just described. In this case, the
skeletal remains of Sinanthropus could be considered as simple
hunting trophies, attributable, as were the traces of fire and
industry, to a true Man, whose remains have not yet been found."
But Breuil himself thought that Sinanthropus was the manufacturer of
tools and maker of fire at Zhoukoudian.
Modern investigators have tended to confirm Breuil's views.
Sinanthropus is usually pictured as an expert hunter, who killed
animals with stone tools and cooked them on fires in the cave at
A somewhat different view of Sinanthropus is provided by Lewis R. Binford and
Chuan Kun Ho, anthropologists at the University of New
Concerning the ash deposits, they stated:
"It would appear
that at least some of them were originally huge guano accumulations
inside the cave. In some cases, these massive organic deposits could
have burned. . . . The assumption that man introduced and
distributed the fire is unwarranted, as is the assumption that
burned bones and other materials are there by virtue of man's
cooking his meals."
Binford and Ho's theory that the ash deposits are composed mostly of
bird droppings has not received unanimous support. But their
assertions about the unreliability of the common picture of Beijing
man, drawn from the presence of bones, ashes, and hominid remains at
the site, are worthy of serious consideration.
The most that can be said of Beijing man, according to Binford and
Ho, is that he was perhaps a scavenger who may or may not have used
primitive stone tools to cut meat from carcasses left by carnivores
in a large cave where organic materials sometimes burned for long
Or perhaps Beijing man was himself prey to the cave's
carnivores, for it seems unlikely he would have voluntarily entered
such a cave, even to scavenge.
SIGNS OF CANNIBALISM
On March 15, 1934, Davidson Black was found at his work desk, dead
of a heart attack. He was clutching his reconstruction of the skull
of Sinanthropus in his hand. Shortly after Black's death, Franz Weidenreich assumed leadership of the Cenozoic Research Laboratory
and wrote a comprehensive series of reports on the Beijing man
fossils. According to Weidenreich, the fossil remains of
Sinanthropus individuals, particularly the skulls, suggested they
had been the victims of cannibalism.
Most of the hominid bones discovered in the cave at Zhoukoudian were
cranial fragments. Weidenreich particularly noted that the
relatively complete skulls all lacked portions of the central part
of the base. He observed that in modern Melanesian skulls "the same
injuries occur as the effects of ceremonial cannibalism."
Besides the missing basal sections, Weidenreich also noted other
signs that might possibly be attributed to the deliberate
application of force. For example, some of the skulls showed impact
marks of a type that "can only occur if the bone is still in a state
of plasticity," indicating that "the injuries described must have
been inflicted during life or soon after death." Some of the few
long bones of Sinanthropus found at Zhoukoudian also displayed signs
that to Weidenreich suggested human breakage, perhaps for obtaining
As to why mostly cranial fragments were found, Weidenreich believed
that except for a few long bones, only heads were carried into the
caves. He stated:
"The strange selection of human bones . . . has
been made by Sinanthropus himself. He hunted his own kin as he
hunted other animals and treated all his victims in the same way."
Some modern authorities have suggested that Weidenreich was mistaken
in his interpretation of the fossil remains of Sinanthropus. Binford
and Ho pointed out that hominid skulls subjected to transport over
river gravel are found with the basal section worn away. But the
skulls recovered from Zhoukoudian were apparently not transported in
Binford and Ho proposed that carnivores had brought the hominid
bones into the caves. But Weidenreich wrote in 1935:
by . . . beasts of prey is impossible. . . . traces of biting and
gnawing ought to have been visible on the human bones, which is not
Weidenreich felt that cannibalism among Sinanthropus
individuals was the most likely explanation.
But Marcellin Boule, director of the Institute de Paleontologie
Humaine in France, suggested another possibility—namely, that Sinanthropus had been hunted by a more intelligent type of hominid.
Boule believed that the small cranial capacity of Sinanthropus
implied that this hominid was not sufficiently intelligent to have
made either fires or the stone and bone implements that were
discovered in the cave.
If the remains of Sinanthropus were the trophies of a more
intelligent hunter, who was that hunter and where were his remains?
Boule pointed out that there are many caves in Europe that have
abundant products of Paleolithic human industry, but the "proportion
of deposits that have yielded the skulls or skeletons of the
manufacturers of this industry is infinitesimal."
Therefore, the hypothesis that a more intelligent species of hominid
hunted Sinanthropus is not ruled out simply because its fossil bones
have not yet been found at Zhoukoudian. From our previous chapters,
it may be recalled that there is evidence, from other parts of the
world, of fully human skeletal remains from periods of equal and
greater antiquity than that represented by Zhoukoudian.
the fully human skeletal remains found at Castenedolo in Italy are
from the Pliocene period, over 2 million years ago.
THE FOSSILS DISAPPEAR
As we have previously mentioned, one reason that it may be difficult
to resolve many of the questions surrounding Beijing man is that the
original fossils are no longer available for study. By 1938,
excavations at Zhoukoudian, under the direction of Weidenreich, were
halted by guerilla warfare in the surrounding Western Hills. Later,
with the Second World War well underway, Weidenreich left for the
United States in April of 1941, carrying a set of casts of the
Beijing man fossils.
In the summer of 1941, it is said, the original bones were packed in
two footlockers and delivered to Colonel Ashurst of the U.S. Marine
Embassy Guard in Beijing. In early December of 1941, the footlockers
were reportedly placed on a train bound for the port of Chinwangtao,
where they were to be loaded onto an American ship, the President
Harrison, as part of the U.S. evacuation from China.
But on December
7, the train was intercepted, and the fossils were never seen again.
After World War II, the Chinese Communist government continued the
excavations at Zhoukoudian, adding a few fossils to the prewar
A CASE OF INTELLECTUAL DISHONESTY
In an article about Zhoukoudian that appeared in the June 1983 issue
of Scientific American, two Chinese scientists, Wu Rukang and
Lin Shenglong, presented misleading evidence for human evolution.
Wu and Lin made two claims:
(1) The cranial capacity of Sinanthropus
increased from the lowest level of the Zhoukoudian excavation
(460,000 years old) to the highest level (230,000 years old),
indicating that Sinanthropus evolved towards Homo sapiens.
type and distribution of stone tools also implied that Sinanthropus
In support of their first claim, Wu and Lin analyzed the cranial
capacities of the 6 relatively complete Sinanthropus skulls found at
Zhoukoudian. Wu and Lin stated:
"The measured cranial capacities are
915 cubic centimeters for the earliest skull, an average of 1075
cubic centimeters for four later skulls and 1140 cubic centimeters
for the most recent one."
From this set of relationships, Wu and Lin
"It seems the brain size increased by more than 100 cubic
centimeters during the occupation of the cave."
A chart in the Scientific American article showed the positions and
sizes of the skulls found at Zhoukoudian Locality 1. But in their
explanation of this chart, Wu and Lin neglected to state that the
earliest skull, found at layer 10, belonged to a child, who
according to Franz Weidenreich died at age 8 or 9 and according to
Davidson Black died between ages 11 and 13.
Wu and Lin also
neglected to mention that one of the skulls discovered in layers 8
and 9 (skull X) had a cranial capacity of 1,225 cc, which is 85 cc
larger than the most recent skull, found in layer 3. When all the
data is presented, it is clear that there is no steady increase in
cranial capacity from 460,000 to 230,000 years ago.
In addition to discussing an evolutionary increase in cranial
capacity, Wu and Lin noted a trend toward smaller tools in the
Zhoukoudian cave deposits. They also reported that the materials
used to make the tools in the recent levels were superior to those
used in the older levels. The recent levels featured more
high-quality quartz, more flint, and less sandstone than the earlier
But a change in the technological skill of a population does not
imply that the population has evolved physiologically. For example,
consider residents of Germany in 1400 and residents of Germany in
1990. The technological differences are awesome—jet planes and cars
instead of horses; television and telephone instead of unaided
vision and voice; tanks and missiles instead of swords and bows. Yet
one would be in error if one concluded that the Germans of 1990 were
physiologically more evolved than the Germans of 1400. Hence,
contrary to the claim of Wu and Lin, the distribution of various
kinds of stone tools does not imply that Sinanthropus evolved.
The report of Wu and Lin, especially their claim of increased
cranial capacity in Sinanthropus during the Zhoukoudian cave
occupation, shows that one should not uncritically accept all one
reads about human evolution in scientific journals.
It appears the
scientific community is so committed to its evolutionary doctrine
that any article purporting to demonstrate it can pass without much
DATING BY MORPHOLOGY
Although Zhoukoudian is the most famous paleoanthropological site in
China, there are many others. These sites have yielded fossils
representative of early Homo erectus, Homo erectus, Neanderthals,
and early Homo sapiens, thus providing an apparent evolutionary
sequence. But the way in which this progression has been constructed
is open to question.
As we have seen in our discussion of human fossil remains discovered
in China and elsewhere, it is in most cases not possible to date
them with a very high degree of precision.
Finds tend to occur
within what we choose to call a "possible date range," and this
range may be quite broad, depending upon the dating methods that are
used. Such methods include chemical, radiometric, and geomagnetic
dating techniques, as well as analysis of site stratigraphy, faunal
remains, tool types, and the morphology of the hominid remains.
Furthermore, different scientists using the same methods often come
up with different age ranges for particular hominid specimens.
Unless one wants to uniformly consider the age judgment given most
recently by a scientist as the correct one, one is compelled to take
into consideration the entire range of proposed dates.
But here one can find oneself in difficulty. Imagine that a
scientist reads several reports about two hominid specimens of
different morphology. On the basis of stratigraphy and faunal
comparisons, they are from roughly the same period. But this period
stretches over several hundred thousand years. Repeated testing by
different scientists using different paleomagnetic, chemical, and
radiometric methods gives a wide spread of conflicting dates within
Some test results indicate one specimen is the older,
some that the other is the older. Analyzing all the published dates
for the two specimens, our investigator finds that the possible date
ranges broadly overlap. In other words, by these methods it proves
impossible to determine which of the two came first.
What is to be done?
In some cases, as we shall show, scientists will
decide, solely on the basis of their commitment to evolution, that
the morphologically more apelike specimen should be moved to the
early part of its possible date range, in order to remove it from
the part of its possible date range that overlaps that of the
morphologically more humanlike specimen.
As part of the same
procedure, the more humanlike specimen can be moved to the later, or
more recent, part of its own possible date range. Thus the two
specimens are temporally separated. But keep in mind the following:
this sequencing operation is performed primarily on the basis of
morphology, in order to preserve an evolutionary progression. It
would look bad to have two forms, one generally considered ancestral
to the other, existing contemporaneously.
Here is an example. Chang Kwang-chih, an anthropologist from Yale
"The faunal lists for Ma-pa, Ch'ang-yang, and
Liu-chiang [hominid] finds offer no positive evidence for any
precise dating. The former two fossils can be anywhere from the
Middle to the Upper Pleistocene, as far as their associated fauna is
For a more precise placement of these three human fossils, one can
only rely upon, at the present time, their own morphological
features in comparison with other better-dated finds elsewhere in
This may be called dating by morphology.
Jean S. Aigner stated in 1981:
"In south China the faunas are
apparently stable, making subdivision of the Middle Pleistocene
difficult. Ordinarily the presence of an advanced hominid or relict
form is the basis for determining later and earlier periods."
is a very clear exposition of the rationale for morphological
dating. The presence of an advanced hominid is taken as an
unmistakable sign of a later period.
In other words, if we find an apelike hominid in connection with a
certain Middle Pleistocene fauna at one site and a more humanlike
hominid in connection with the same Middle Pleistocene fauna at
another site, then we must, according to this system, conclude that
the site with the more humanlike hominid is of a later Middle
Pleistocene date than the other. The Middle Pleistocene, it may be
recalled, extends from 100,000 to 1 million years ago. It is taken
for granted that the two sites in question could not possibly be
With this maneuver completed, the two fossil hominids, now set apart
from each other temporally, are then cited in textbooks as evidence
of an evolutionary progression in the Middle Pleistocene! This is an
intellectually dishonest procedure. The honest thing to do would be
to admit that the evidence does not allow one to say with certainty
that one hominid preceded the other and that it is possible they
This would rule out using these particular
hominids to construct a temporal evolutionary sequence. All one
could honestly say is that both were found in the Middle
Pleistocene. For all we know, the "more advanced" humanlike hominid
may have preceded the "less advanced" apelike one. But by assuming
that evolution is a fact, one can then "date" the hominids by their
morphology and arrange the fossil evidence in a consistent manner.
Let us now consider a specific example of the date range problem. In
1985, Qiu Zhonglang reported that in 1971 and 1972 fossil teeth of
Homo sapiens were found in the Yanhui cave near Tongzi, in Guizhou
province, southern China. The Tongzi site contained a
Stegodon-Ailuropoda fauna. Stegodon is a type of extinct elephant,
and Ailuropoda is the giant panda. This Stegodon-Ailuropoda fauna is
typical of southern China during the Middle Pleistocene.
The complete faunal list for the Tongzi site given by Han Defen and
Xu Chunhua contains 24 kinds of mammals, all of which are also found
in Middle (and Early) Pleistocene lists given by the same authors.
But a great many of the genera and species listed are also known to
have survived to the Late Pleistocene and the present.
The author of the report on the Tongzi discoveries stated:
"The Yanhui Cave was the first site containing fossils of Homo sapiens
discovered anywhere in the province... The fauna suggests a
Middle-Upper Pleistocene range, but the archaeological [human]
evidence is consistent with an Upper [Late] Pleistocene age."
In other words, the presence of Homo sapiens fossils was the
determining factor in assigning a Late Pleistocene age to the site.
This is a clear example of dating by morphology. But according to
the faunal evidence reported by Qiu, all that can really be said is
that the age of the Homo sapiens fossils could be anywhere from
Middle Pleistocene to Late Pleistocene.
There is, however, stratigraphic evidence suggesting a strictly
Middle Pleistocene range. Qiu gave the following information:
deposits in the cave contain seven layers. The human fossils, stone
artifacts, burned bones, and mammalian fossils were all unearthed in
the fourth layer, a stratum of greyish-yellow sand and gravel."
concentration in a single layer suggests that the human remains and
the animal fossils, all of mammals found at Middle Pleistocene
sites, are roughly contemporaneous. And yellow cave deposits in
South China are generally thought to be Middle Pleistocene.
Our own analysis of the faunal list also suggests it is reasonable
to narrow the age range to the Middle Pleistocene. Stegodon, present
at Tongzi, is generally said to have existed from the Pliocene to
the Middle Pleistocene. In a list of animals considered important
for dating sites in South China, Aigner indicated that Stegodon
orientalis survived only to the late Middle Pleistocene, although
she did place a question mark after this entry.
A strictly Middle Pleistocene age for the Tongzi cave fauna is also
supported by the presence of a species whose extinction by the end
of the Middle Pleistocene is thought to be more definite. In her
list of mammals considered important for dating sites in South
China, Aigner included, in addition to Stegodon orientalis, other
species found at Tongzi. Among them is Megatapirus (giant tapir),
which Aigner said is confined to the Middle Pleistocene.
found at Tongzi is listed by Chinese researchers as Megatapirus
augustus. Aigner characterized Megatapirus augustus as a "large
fossil form of the mid-Middle Pleistocene south China collections."
We suggest that Megatapirus augustus limits the most recent age of
the Tongzi faunal collection to the end of the Middle Pleistocene.
Another marker fossil listed by Aigner is Crocuta crocuta (the
living hyena), which first appeared in China during the middle
Middle Pleistocene. Since Crocuta crocuta is present at Tongzi, this
limits the oldest age of the Tongzi fauna to the beginning of the
middle Middle Pleistocene.
In summary, using Megatapirus augustus and Crocuta crocuta as marker
fossils, we can conclude that the probable date range for the Homo
sapiens fossils found at Tongzi extends from the beginning of the
middle Middle Pleistocene to the end of the late Middle Pleistocene.
So Qiu, in effect, extended the date ranges of some mammalian
species in the Stegodon-Ailuropoda fauna (such as Megatapirus
augustus) from the Middle Pleistocene into the early Late
Pleistocene in order to preserve an acceptable date for the Homo
sapiens fossils. Qiu's evolutionary preconceptions apparently
demanded this operation.
Once it was carried out, the Tongzi Homo
sapiens, placed safely in the Late Pleistocene, could then be
introduced into a temporal evolutionary sequence and cited as proof
of human evolution. If we place Tongzi Homo sapiens in the older
part of its true faunal date range, in the middle Middle
Pleistocene, he would be contemporary with Zhoukoudian Homo erectus.
And that would not look very good in a textbook on fossil man in
We have carefully analyzed reports about several other Chinese
sites, and we find that the same process of morphological dating has
been used to temporally separate various kinds of hominids.
At Lantian, a Homo erectus skull was found in 1964. It was more
primitive than Zhoukoudian Homo erectus. Various authors, such as J.
S. Aigner, have therefore placed it earlier than Zhoukoudian Homo
erectus. But our own analysis of the faunal evidence, site
stratigraphy, and paleomagnetic dating shows the date range for the
Lantian Homo erectus skull overlaps that of Zhoukoudian Homo
erectus. The same is true for a Homo erectus jaw found at Lantian.
We do not, however, insist that the Lantian Homo erectus skull is
contemporaneous with Homo erectus of Zhoukoudian Locality 1.
Following our standard procedure, we simply extend the probable date
range of primitive Lantian Homo erectus to include the time period
represented by the Zhoukoudian occupation.
So now we have overlapping possible date ranges in the middle Middle
Pleistocene for the following hominids:
(1) Lantian man, a primitive
(2) Beijing man, a more advanced Homo erectus
(3) Tongzi man, described as Homo sapiens
We are not insisting that
these beings actually coexisted. Perhaps they did, perhaps they did
not. What we are insisting on is this—scientists should not propose
that the hominids definitely did not coexist simply on the basis of
their morphological diversity. Yet this is exactly what has
happened. Scientists have arranged Chinese fossil hominids in a
temporal evolutionary sequence primarily by their physical type.
This methodology insures that no fossil evidence shall ever fall
outside the realm of evolutionary expectations.
morphological differences in the fossils of hominids to resolve
contradictory faunal, stratigraphic, chemical, radiometric, and
geomagnetic datings in harmony with a favored evolutionary sequence,
paleoanthropologists have allowed their preconceptions to obscure
FURTHER DISCOVERIES IN CHINA
In 1956, peasants digging for fertilizer in a cave near Maba, in
Guangdong province, southern China, found a skull that was
apparently from a primitive human being. There seems to be general
agreement that the Maba skull is Homo sapiens with some
It is easy to see that scientists, in accordance with their
evolutionary expectations, would want to place the Maba specimen in
the very latest Middle Pleistocene or early Late Pleistocene, after
Homo erectus. Although Maba might be as recent as the early Late
Pleistocene, the animal bones found there were from mammals that
lived not only in the Late Pleistocene, but also in the Middle
Pleistocene, and even the Early Pleistocene. The principal
justification for fixing the date of the Maba cave in the very
latest part of the late Middle Pleistocene or in the early Late
Pleistocene seems to be the morphology of the hominid remains.
Updating our list, we now find overlapping date ranges in the middle
Middle Pleistocene for:
(1) primitive Homo erectus (Lantian)
Homo erectus (Zhoukoudian)
(3) Homo sapiens (Tongzi)
sapiens with Neanderthaloid features (Maba)
The possibility that Homo erectus and more advanced hominids may
have coexisted in China adds new fuel to the controversy about who
was really responsible for the broken brain cases of Beijing man and
the presence of advanced stone tools at Zhoukoudian Locality 1. Did
several hominids, of various grades of advancement, really coexist
in the middle Middle Pleistocene? We do not assert this
categorically, but it is definitely within the range of
possibilities suggested by the available data. In our study of the
scientific literature, we have come upon no clear reason for ruling
out coexistence other than the fact that the individuals are
Some will certainly claim that the fact of human evolution has been
so conclusively established, beyond any reasonable doubt, that it is
perfectly justifiable to engage in dating hominids by their
morphology. But we believe this claim does not hold up under close
scrutiny. As we have demonstrated in Chapters 2-7, abundant evidence
contradicting current ideas about human evolution has been
suppressed or forgotten. Furthermore, scientists have systematically
overlooked shortcomings in the evidence that supposedly supports
current evolutionary hypotheses.
If peasants digging for fertilizer in a Chinese cave had uncovered a
fully human skull along with a distinctly Pliocene fauna, scientists
would certainly have protested that no competent observers were
present to conduct adequate stratigraphic studies. But since the
Maba skull could be fitted into the standard evolutionary sequence,
no one objected to its mode of discovery.
Even after one learns to recognize the highly questionable practice
of morphological dating, one may be astonished to note how
frequently it is used. In the field of human evolution research in
China, it appears to be not the exception but the rule. The Homo
sapiens maxilla (upper jaw) found by workers in 1956 at Longdong in
Changyang county, Hubei Province, South China, has provided many
authorities with a welcome opportunity for unabashed morphological
The upper jaw, judged Homo sapiens with some primitive features, was
found in association with the typical South China Middle Pleistocene
fauna including Ailuropoda (panda) and Stegodon (extinct elephant).
In 1962, Chang Kwang-chih of Yale University wrote:
"This fauna is
generally believed to be of Middle Pleistocene age, and the
scientists working on the cave suggest a late Middle Pleistocene
dating, for the morphology of the maxilla shows less primitive
features than does that of Sinanthropus."
It is clear that Chang's
primary justification for assigning Changyang Homo sapiens a date
later than Beijing Homo erectus was morphological.
In 1981, J. S. Aigner joined in with her statement:
Pleistocene age is suggested by some of the fauna with the presence
of the hominid which is considered near H. sapiens indicating a
dating late in that period."
That scientists could confront the faunal evidence at Changyang
without even considering the possibility that Homo sapiens coexisted
in China with Homo erectus is amazing.
In this regard, Sir Arthur
Keith wrote in 1931:
"It has so often happened in the past that the
discovery of human remains in a deposit has influenced expert
opinion as to its age; the tendency has been to interpret geological
evidence so that it would not clash flagrantly with the theory of
man's recent origin."
In 1958, workers found human fossils in the Liujiang cave in the
Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of South China. These included a
skull, vertebrae, ribs, pelvic bones, and a right femur. These
anatomically modern human remains were found along with a typical
Stegodon-Ailuropoda fauna, giving a date range for the site of the
entire Middle Pleistocene. But Chinese scientists assigned the human
bones to the Late Pleistocene, primarily because of their advanced
The Dali site in Shaanxi province has yielded a skull classified as
Homo sapiens with primitive features. The Dali fauna contains
animals that are all typical of the Middle Pleistocene and earlier.
Some Chinese paleoanthropologists suggest a late Middle Pleistocene
age for Dali. While this may account for the human skull, the
associated fauna does not dictate such a date. Rather it suggests
for Dali Homo sapiens a possible date range extending further back
into the Middle Pleistocene, overlapping, once more, Beijing man at
Zhoukoudian Locality 1.
We thus conclude that Beijing man Homo erectus at Zhoukoudian
Locality 1 may very well have lived at the same time as a variety of
hominids—early Homo sapiens (some with Neanderthaloid features),
Homo sapiens sapiens, and primitive Homo erectus.
In attempting to sort out this Middle Pleistocene hominid logjam,
scientists have repeatedly used the morphology of the hominid
fossils to select desirable dates within the total possible faunal
date ranges of the sites. In this way, they have been able to
preserve an evolutionary progression of hominids. Remarkably, this
artificially constructed sequence, designed to fit evolutionary
expectations, is then cited as proof of the evolutionary hypothesis.
For example, as we have several times demonstrated, a Homo sapiens
specimen with a possible date range extending from the middle Middle
Pleistocene (contemporary with Beijing man) to the Late Pleistocene
will be pushed toward the more recent end of the date range. One
would be equally justified in selecting a middle Middle Pleistocene
date within the possible date range, even though this conflicts with
We conclude our review of fossil hominid discoveries in China with
some cases of sites regarded as Early Pleistocene. At Yuanmou, in
Yunnan province, southwest China, geologists found two hominid teeth
(incisors). According to Chinese scientists, these were more
primitive than those of Beijing man. The teeth are believed to have
belonged to an ancestor of Beijing man, a very primitive Homo
erectus, descended from an Asian Australopithecus.
Stone tools—three scrapers, a stone core, a flake, and a point of
quartz or quartzite—were later found at Yuanmou. Published drawings
show the Yuanmou tools to be much like the European eoliths and the
Oldowan industry of East Africa. Layers of cinders, containing
mammalian fossils, were also found with the tools and hominid
The strata yielding the incisors gave a probable paleomagnetic date
of 1.7 million years within a range of 1.6-1.8 million years. This
date has been challenged, but leading Chinese scientists continue to
accept it, pointing out that the mammal fossils are consistent with
an Early Pleistocene age for the site.
There are, however, problems with an Early Pleistocene age for
Yuanmou Homo erectus. Homo erectus is thought to have evolved from
Homo habilis in Africa about 1.5 million years ago and migrated
elsewhere about 1.0 million years ago. Homo habilis is not thought
to have left Africa. Implicit in Jia's age estimate for the Yuanmou
hominid is a separate origin for Homo erectus in China. Jia seems to
require the presence in China about 2.0 million years ago of
Australopithecus or Homo habilis, something forbidden by current
In this regard, Lewis R. Binford and Nancy M. Stone stated in 1986:
"It should be noted that many Chinese scholars are still wedded to
the idea that man evolved in Asia. This view contributes to the
willingness of many to uncritically accept very early dates for
Chinese sites and to explore the possibility of stone tools being
found in Pliocene deposits."
One could also say that because Western
scholars are wedded to the idea that humans evolved in Africa they
uncritically reject very early dates for hominid fossils and
artifacts around the world.
As previously mentioned, one need not suppose that either Africa or
Asia was a center of evolution. There is, as shown in preceding
chapters, voluminous evidence, much found by professional
scientists, suggesting that humans of the modern type have lived on
various continents, including South America, for tens of millions of
years. And, during this same period, there is also evidence for
various apelike creatures, some resembling humans more than others.
A question encountered in our discussions of anomalous cultural
remains (Chapters 2-6) once more arises: why should one attribute
the Early Pleistocene stone tools and signs of fire at Yuanmou to
primitive Homo erectus?
The tools and signs of fire were not found close to the Homo erectus
teeth. Furthermore, there is evidence from China itself and other
parts of the world that Homo sapiens existed in the Early
Pleistocene and earlier.
In 1960, Jia Lanpo investigated Early Pleistocene sand and gravel
deposits at Xihoudu in northern Shanxi province. He found three
stones with signs of percussion, and more artifacts turned up in
1961 and 1962. Because of Early Pleistocene faunal remains, the site
was given an age of over a million years. Paleomagnetic dating
yielded an age of 1.8 million years.
Cut bones and signs of fire
were also found at Xihoudu. Jia believed Australopithecus was
responsible for the artifacts and fire. But Australopithecus is not
currently regarded as a maker of fire. Homo erectus, the
Neanderthals, and Homo sapiens are the only hominids now thought
capable of this.
J. S. Aigner, as one might well imagine, expressed strong
reservations about Jia's evidence:
"Despite the strong support for
Lower [Early] Pleistocene human activity in north China claimed for Hsihoutu [Xihoudu], I am reluctant to accept unequivocally the
materials at this time. . . . if Hsihoutu is verified, then humans
occupied the north of China some 1,000,000 years ago and utilized
fire. This would call into question some of our current assumptions
about both the course of human evolution and the adaptational
capabilities of early hominids."
If one could, however, become
detached from current assumptions, interesting possibilities open
This ends our review of discoveries in China. We have seen that age
determinations of fossil hominids have been distorted by
When these ages are adjusted to reflect
reasonable faunal date ranges, the total evidence fails to
exclusively support an evolutionary hypothesis.
appears also consistent with the proposal that anatomically modern
human beings have coexisted with a variety of humanlike creatures
throughout the Pleistocene.