Renowned paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey will co-host a symposium to discuss Peking Man at Stony Brook University’s Charles B. Wang Center this Thursday and Friday. During the event researchers from the United States will gather with colleagues from China (including co-host Lui Wu from the Chinese Academy of Sciences), Europe and Africa to discuss new findings regarding one of our closest ancestors. Peking Man was first discovered at a site in Zhoukoudian, China (southwest of Beijing) in the 1920’s, and is believed to have lived in the region between 220,000-800,000 years ago.
“We are related to things that were less and less like us the further you go back in time. Obviously the Peking Man fossils were hugely important in their day,” stated Leakey. “At no time since their discovery has there been a sit-down discussion about the latest evidence out of China and Africa. Hopefully this will be the beginning of more scientific exchange between China and the rest of the world,” he continued.
“Although most people have heard the name ‘Peking Man,’ nobody knows anything about him,” commented William Arens, Stony Brook University’s vice provost for global affairs and director of the Confucius Institute (a 5-year old public non-profit group affiliated with the People’s Republic of China Ministry of Education), co-sponsoring the event. “We will find out if there is actually anything new since the original fossils disappeared just before the Japanese invasion in 1937.” The west has devoted little research involving Peking man since World War II. What is known here is that these ancestors were classified as members of the Homo erectus family; that they made stone tools, and hunted both large and small game.
“There is also some (debatable) that they used fire, according to Professor Eric Delson of Lehman College in the Bronx, and paleontology research assistant at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. Delson, who will take part in the symposium, was one of the first Americans allowed at the Zhoukoudian site in 1975.