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China plan to build a new 'Peking Man' museum
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China is planning to build a new "Peking Man" museum near Beijing to replace the old one in Zhoukoudian Caves in order to further protect ancient relics, the museum director said Monday.

Demolition work involving dozens of households and four enterprises and public institutions in the region has been kicked off to make way for the new museum, the museum director Yang Haifeng told Xinhua Monday.

Yang said there have been no complaints about the scheduled demolitions.

Zhoukoudian is a cave system in Beijing which has yielded one of the first specimens of homo erectus, dubbed "Peking Man."

"Peking Man," was previously believed to have lived in Zhoukoudian Caves about 400,000 to 500,000 years ago, but in March, Chinese scientists revealed they were actually 200,000 years older. The finding was published in London-based science journal Nature.

The new museum will be located in a suburb or Beijing and be 1,075 square meters to 7,890 square meters, seven times the size of the old one, according to Yang.

The current museum is in a key-protected area that could be endangered by heavy traffic.

"The current one was built in 1971 to meet the needs of visitors, but now it's not helpful for protection or exhibition," Yang said.

The new museum will have exhibition halls, a specimen storeroom, research center and popular science area, capable of exhibiting more archaeological discoveries to the public, Yang said.

The new museum is scheduled to start construction in October and be completed by the end of next year, according to Yang.

Before its completion, the current museum will remain open to the public.

In late June, Chinese scientists launched a four-month rescue excavation in Zhoukoudian Caves, which focused on preventing the western wall of the cave, where the first skulls of "Peking Man" were found, from collapsing.

Zhoukoudian was listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage site in 1987.

"We do everything to restore and protect relics in Zhoukoudian," Yang said.

(Xinhua News Agency July 20, 2009)

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