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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Almanac: Lost Peking Man

Air Date: Week of

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This week, facts about Peking Man. Sixty years ago this week, his fossil remains boarded a train in China, never to be seen again.


CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.


CURWOOD: Sixty years ago this week, the Peking Man boarded a train in China, never to be heard from again. Peking Man was actually the boxed-up, fossilized skulls, jawbones, and teeth of more than 40 men, women and children. They were discovered in an old quarry outside what's now Beijing in the 1920s. Scientists dated the fossils back more than 200,000 years, and dubbed the collection "Peking Man." Peking Man was classified as Homo erectus and bolstered the theory of evolution, but he would not be above ground for long. In July of 1939 Japan occupied Peking. So Peking Man researchers took the fossils from their safe, carefully wrapped them in tissue and gauze, packed them into wooden crates, and moved them to a U.S. military base. The U.S. Marines were all set to ship the crates to the states for safekeeping but, on December 7th, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Chaos ensued, and the Marines and Peking Man waited in vain for a boat that never came. Researchers think the Peking Man fossils were likely thrown aside and trampled by Japanese troops, but some treasure hunters hope the bones will resurface some day, and there are large cash rewards for the finder. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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