January 23, 2008

100,000 Year Old Skull Found in China

The China Daily called a newly unearthed, almost complete human skull fossil the greatest discovery since Peking Man. Peking man, dating back between 250,000 and 400,000 years, was discovered in the 1920s, and this new discovery is, according to the media, the greatest thing China has boasted since, dating back 100,000 years.

The new skull fossil was found last month in Xuchang, a province of Henan. Following two years of digs which covered 2,800 square feet, two archaeologists were leaving for the Lunar New Year break, or the "Spring Festival". Just as they were about to leave, this fossil containing 16 pieces of the skull was discovered. These pieces were buried near the mouth of a spring. The high calcium content of the water in this spring is what fossilized the skull.

Li Zhanyang, an archaeologist with the Henan Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute says that he expects more important discoveries in the future. He also said of the nearly-complete skull, "More astonishing than the completeness of the skull is that it still has a fossilized membrane on the inner side, so scientists can track the nerves of the Paleolithic ancestors."

Experts with the AFP seem to think that the discovery is a bit too hyped by the media of China. Wu Xinzhi, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences says of the skull, "It is far from the greatest judging from points such as the completeness, the time, and the significance of problems it can explain." According to him it has only proven that there were humans living in that area about 100,000 years ago and that their heads were roughly the same shape as the skull.

In the past two years' excavations, not only was the skull found last month, but stone and bone artifacts as well as over 30,000 animal fossils were discovered.


PHOTO CAPTION: Pieces of an ancient human skull fossil unearthed in Henan province last month. The almost complete human skull fossil, which could date back 100,000 years, was unearthed in China, state media said on Wednesday, hailing it as the greatest discovery since Peking Man. (State Administration of Cultural Heritage via China Daily)


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