China museum

Homes of Our Forebears: Archaeology

Banpo Museum in Xi'an









Beijing Man Site Museum

Beijing Man Site Museum.
The exterior of the Beijing Man Site Museum.

The site of this historic archaeological discovery, set on a low hill called Dragon-Bone Mountain at Zhoukoudian, 50 kilometers to the southwest of Beijing, marks one of the origins of early man. The resulting finds became known to the world as 'Peking Man or Beijing Man. Because of this, the site was declared an important National Cultural Protected Unit in 1961, and was listed as one of UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage Sites in 1987.

Autumn is the most congenial season in Beijing, and is also best at DragonBone Mountain. The reconstructed dioramas at the exhibition hall of early man that describe a period some 400-500,000 years ago are also set in the fall. Beijing Man utilized the southward migration of deer and other animals to surround and hunt these tasty wild creatures. Women and children plucked ripe berries and fruit in this season, and also gathered grains in preparation for the cold winter.

The restored head statue of the 'Beijing Man.'
The restored head statue of the 'Beijing Man.'
The Beijing Man Crania
The Beijing Man Crania found in the Beijing Man Site in Zhoukoudian.

The site of Zhoukoudian is set into a mountainside, with running water available nearby. Natural caves existed in these mountains and the weather was warmer long ago. The natural environment was conducive to habitation and Beijing Man is believed to have lived here continuously for some 300,000 years. Evidence of this habitation has been left behind in the caves, in the forms of bones, worked stones, and traces of occupation.

The main cave measures 140 meters from east to west and 53 meters from north to south. At twilight on a cold early winter's evening in 1929, with the help of a lighted candle, archaeologists crawled into the space of this cave and found the extraordinary discovery of a complete early hominid cranium from 500,000 years ago. The name given to it was China Primitive Man, Beijing-type. Or, in short, Beijing Man.

The restored image of Beijing Men going hunting.
The restored image of Beijing Men going hunting.

Beijing Man left several tens of thousands of Paleolithic stone tools behind him in this and neighboring caves, made in many shapes and from many types of stone. These can be seen in the exhibition cases of the museum. Through long periods of experimentation, Beijing Man became familiar with the different uses and chipping qualities of different kinds of stone. Beijing Mans use of fire deserves special mention: these people were in possession of the knowledge of how use fire to cook food, stay warm, give light, and keep off wild animals. The use of fire delineated an epoch-making chapter in the history of man's advancement.

In 1973, the so-called 'New Cave Man' was discovered at Zhoukoudian, representing a stage in man's history of advancement to 'early hominids,' dating to 200,000 to 100,000 years ago. Around 20,000 years ago, the humans living in the vicinity of Zhoukoudian were given the name Mountaintop Cave Man following their discovery in a cave above the Beijing Man Cave. This earlier discovery was made in 1933, and indicated that the inhabitants had already entered a matrilinealclan commune stage. The most representative works of the Mountaintop Cave Man were an 82-millimeter bone needle, its surface still shiny and slightly arced in shape, with one side still very sharp. On the other end some very fine instrument had hollowed out a tiny hole. The appearance of this object proved that the Mountaintop Cave Man already sewed and clothed himself with animal hides and leather. A number of interesting ornaments were excavated from the site, including earrings, animal teeth with holes in them for stringing, fishbones, ocean shells, stone beads, bones carved in certain ways, and so on. This indicated that people of the time had an appreciation of aesthetics and of how to adorn themselves.

Address: Beijing City,Fangshan District,Zhoukoudian xiang
Telephone: 86-10-69301454

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