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New Findings Throw Limelight on Peking Man Site

New geological findings and enhanced protection efforts at Peking Man site at Zhoukoudian on Beijing's outskirts have thrown again the limelight on the world heritage site since last year.

Chinese archaeologists unearthed in 1929 the first complete skull of Peking Man at Zhoukoudian, about 50 km southwest of downtown Beijing. The Peking Man was proved to have lived approximately 500,000 years ago and the discovery stunned the world then.

By 1937, five complete skulls of the Peking Man had been unearthed since excavation of the Peking Man site which was started in 1927.

Except for three teeth of Peking Man stored in a lab in Sweden, the five skulls sunk into oblivion during World War II and no trace of them has ever been found.

Excavation of the Peking Man site was resumed after the founding of new China in 1949. To date, archaeologists in China have unearthed fossils belonging to 40 Peking men, over 100,000 items of stoneware, traces of fire use and large quantities of fossilized vertebrae.

China put the site under state key protection in 1961 and, in 1987 it was included by the United Nations Educational, Scientificand Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on the World Heritage list.

In November 2003, a Sino-French joint geophysical detection effort found that beneath the Peking Man site exist human cultural relics of the Quaternary period, which started from the end of the Tertiary Period and went through to the present and was characterized by the appearance and development of human beings.

And nine spots have thus been designated for prospecting for new tracks and evidences of human activities in the earlier ages of the period.

In another development, the protection of the existing relics at the Peking Man site has become imperative as 21 relic spots at the site are found under threat of geological disasters, 13 of which in critical situation.

The worrying fact was revealed by the Institute of Geophysics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences following a survey made late last year on the local hidden hazard of geological calamities.

Thus, more than 5 million yuan (some U600,000) have been allocated for a program to be commenced shortly to reinforce the physical status of the existing relic spots at the site to spare them from collapse, landslide and other natural attacks.

As from late 2002, the Beijing city government has worked in cooperation with the Chinese Academy of Sciences in a bid to administer the site, with the former focusing on protection and the latter on research.

The joint efforts have helped greatly increase its protection forces compared with the past when the academy had overall charge of the site and paid much more attention to its research than preservation.

Beijing is also trying to enact a site protection law this year by making an amendment to the Protection of the Site of the Peking Man in Zhoukoudian, which went into force on 1989. 
(Xinhua News Agency June 24, 2004)

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