At dusk on December 2th, 1929, a well-preserved skull of a primitive man was excavated on Dragon Bone Hill near the town of Zhoukoudian in the suburbs of Beijing (Peking). The discovery was made by the well known Chinese anthropologist Pei Wenzhong and his excavation team. Scientific identification showed that it belonged to a new type of ape man who lived quickly throughout China and the whole world. Later, this type of man was named by anthropologists Homo erectus Pekinensis, or Peking Man, and Zhoukoudian has been known as the homeof Peking Man.
In 1953 a museum of Peking Man was established at the site. In 1961 the Chinese government designated the place as one of China’s major government-protected cultural sites, and a new exhibition hall was erected in 1972. The museum consists of two Parts-the exhibition hail and the remains of the cave home of Peking Man.
A drive of some fifty kilometers southwest of Beijing brings one within sight of Dragon Bone Hill, a round-topped elevation against a chain of rolling hills to the north and west. At its foot southeast. The surroundings impress one with the precarious life of Peking Man, who hunted in the primeval plains and forests and picked wild fruit for food, made his own tools and so by his work began a stubborn struggle with nature.
The cave home of Peking Man, estimated to be 140 meters east-west and about forty meters north-south, is located on the northern slope of Dragon Bone Hill. As found the cave was filled with layers of deposits more than forty meters thick. Weathering and erosion had erased all but traces of the roof that once covered a large part of the cave.
The deposits were stratified with definite characteristics distinguishing each of the 13 layers. Most important were four thick layers of ash which testify to the use of fire by Peking Man. These ashes were easily recognizable as they were dark-red, soft and wet, oozing water when a handful were squeezed When dry, they were very light The thickest layer, in the upper-middle part of the cave deposit measured as much as six meters deep. Numerous stoic tools and fossilized small vertebrates–rats and Bats–were found in this layer. In the lower middle part of the cave deposit the ash layer was less thick. It was around the fringe of this layer that the first human fossil and, in time, most of the human fossils and stone tools were unearthed. In November l936 alone the bottom of this layer yielded three complete human skulls.
Further up the hill above the cave of Peking Man, is where Upper Cave Man(Homo sapiens)dwelt more than l8 thousand years ago. To date the remains of eight persons of different ages have been found in this upper cave. The remains include three complete skulls and fragments of skeletons from a grave. Unearthed with them were mammalian fossils bone and stone tools and ornaments. Among them was a holed bone needle five centimeters long, evidence that Upper Cave Man sewed animal skins into garments for himse1f. The over-all picture of Upper Cave Man is that he more closely resembled modern man than Peking Man did.
The first to discover this site were local lime-kiln workers. The hill had long been quarried for limestone and the workers frequently came across fossils at their worksites. They called these objects“dragon bones”. hence the name Dragon Bone Hill.