1921. Otto Zdansky discovers the Peking Man Fossil

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P. F. Puech


It is common to praise archaeologists for their major discoveries, this is how the name of Otto Zdansky (1894-1988) is linked to that of the Peking Man he discovered at the end of the summer of 1921 in China, 48 km from Beijing (Peking). Less often mentioned is the interest given by the inventor to research undertaken on the fossil isolated teeth of this Homo erectus from China that he unearthed on the Zhoukoudian site (formerly Chou-kou-tien). These teeth of Sinanthropus pekinensis, which he had sent to Uppsala University of Sweden, had also become important in 1980 for me who was then trying to understand how ancient men lived. The three original isolated teeth discovered and described by Otto Zdansky, held at Uppsala in the ZKD (Zhoukoudian) collection since 1923 : Right upper M3 (1921) Left lower P3 (shipped in1923) Right lower P4 (1952), are reflecting the expanding interest of the1920s in the traces of the “peripheral” human evolution in China [Black 1926; Zdansky 1927, 1952]. In January 1980 I contacted Otto Zdansky (figure 1) to include their study; using a method I had started in 1976 to carry out an analysis of the wear of teeth examined under the microscope of populations in order to deduce the different food choices. This and excerpts from Otto Zdansky’s letters reproduced in bold italics bring to life this story of the discovery of the first fossilized remains of Peking Man.

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How to Cite
Puech, P. F. (2020). 1921. Otto Zdansky discovers the Peking Man Fossil. Human Evolution , 35(3-4), 191-210. https://doi.org/10.14673/HE2020341074
Author Biography

P. F. Puech, Institut de Paléontologie Humaine

Puech P.F.
Institut de Paléontologie Humaine, Paris and Le Zenith 1
561 ave Evêché de Maguelone,
34250 Palavas, France 
Email: pfpuech@yahoo.fr