China Takes Steps to Preserve Peking Man Site

China's top science organ and cultural relics department are taking steps to protect the well-known Zhoukoudian site, where a skull of the Peking Man was found 70 years ago, from weathering and pollution.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, which is now administrating the ruins, 48 kilometers southwest of downtown Beijing, received Wednesday a donation of one million Yuan (US$120,000) from a company in Zhejiang Province, east China.

Pei Wenzhong, the late leading Chinese archeologist, dug out the first broken skull of Peking Man, who lived some 500,000 years ago, in 1929 near Zhoukoudian in the southwestern suburbs of Beijing. Pei's finding and archeologist Jia Lanpo's later finding of other three fossilized skulls of Peking Men in the 1930s stunned the world.

Chinese and overseas scientists found the earliest evidence of the use of fire by ape-like people at the site, which was listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the World Heritage in 1987.

However, the treasured site has run into financial shortages.

The CAS institute has worked out an overall protection plan for the ruins, which still need the approval of authoritative departments.

"We are preparing to re-open the Peking Man Museum to the public after rearrangement," said Zhu Min, director of the institute.

During the 1980s, the museum received an average of 100,000 visitors annually. In recent years, the number has plummeted to 40, 000.

Zhu said that labor expenses and daily operation of the museum alone require one million yuan a year. In addition, its refit and effective protection need at least three million Yuan.

Zhang Bai, deputy chief of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, said, "the state will pour in more money to better preserve the site."

At the invitation of the Chinese side, the consortium of Electricite de France (EDF) had identified a number of underground caves, which might contain more evidence of homo erectus, within the boundary of the ruins.

(People's Daily 06/07/2001)

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Peking Man Heritage Site in Danger



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