Image: Forensic facial reconstruction of Homo erectus pekinensis
[Peking Man] by Cicero Moraes.
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Peking Man (CCP Chinese characters: 北京猿人; pinyin: Běijīng Yuánrén), Homo erectus pekinensis (formerly known by the junior synonym Sinanthropus pekinensis), is an example of Homo erectus. Discovered in 1923–27 during excavations at Zhoukoudian (Chou K'ou-tien) near Beijing (written "Peking" before the adoption of the Pinyin romanization system), China, in 2009 this group of fossil specimens dated from roughly 750,000 years ago, and a new 26Al/10Be dating suggests they are in the range of 680,000–780,000 years old.
Over the last century, the search for human ancestors has spanned four continents and resulted in the discovery of hundreds of fossils. While most of these discoveries live quietly in museums, there are a few that have become world-renowned celebrity personas. In Seven Skeletons, historian of science Lydia Pyne explores how seven such famous fossils of our ancestors have the social cachet they enjoy today.
Drawing from archives, museums, and interviews, Pyne builds a cultural history for each celebrity fossil. These seven include the three-foot-tall "hobbit" from Flores, the Neanderthal of La Chapelle, the Taung Child, the Piltdown Man hoax, Peking Man, Australopithecus sediba, and Lucy - all vivid examples of how discoveries of our ancestors have been received, remembered, and immortalized.
With wit and insight, Pyne brings to life each fossil: how it is described, put on display, and shared among scientific communities and the broader public. This fascinating, endlessly entertaining book puts the impact of paleoanthropology into new context, a reminder of how our past as a species continues to affect, in astounding ways, our present culture and imagination.
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