A Sydney gallery has put on display fossil remains claimed to be that of "Peking Man", excavated in China in the early 1930's.
A Sydney gallery has put on display fossil remains claimed to be that of "Peking Man", excavated in China in the early 1930's. The remains are said to be half a million years old.
The exhibition is at Sydney's Hogarth Gallery. An invitation issued to the media and guests by the gallery refers to the "world premiere public exhibition of the Peking Man skull" and describes it as a " priceless missing link fossil, first discovered in Northern China in 1926"
The invitation incorporates a quote from Professor A.P. Elkin, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology of the University of Sydney:" This fossil is an extremely important link in human evolution."
In the past tow months, international publicity spotlighted a claim by an Australian group that it knew the whereabouts of the Peking man fossils. The group isn't shedding much light on how the skull on display came for to be in Australia and some experts still doubt that it's the genuine article.
The original skeletal remains consisted of parts of some 40 individuals, parts of skulls, jaws and other bones of the skeleton. During the Japanese occupation of China in 1941, the Chinese authorities, fearing for the safety of the material, apparently handed it to the American authorities for shipment to the United States and for safe keeping The specimens, guarded by marines, are known to have reached to coast safely. But the marines were taken prisoner and the specimens vanished.
Fortunately, excellent replicas had been made of all the specimens beforehand and these are still available. But if the original skeletal remains still exist, they are of outstanding scientific and cultural significance.
And only this week, Chinese authorities said they could mount a genuine "Peking Man" exhibition in Australia provided the Australian government was prepared to put up $120-million insurance coverage. This is about half of the estimated worth of fossils that would be in the display.
The cloud over the authenticity of both the skull now on exhibition in Australia and the remains held in China is both intriguing and frustrating anthropologists and paleontologists. Mr. D.G. Griffin, Acting Director of The Australian Museum, Sydney, in a letter to the "Sydney Morning Herald", said the museum had not been approached by anyone claiming to possess "Peking Man" specimens. He said that some or all of the material in question should be made available for examination and possible identification.
Mr. Griffin says that there seems little doubt that the specimens are still legally the property of the Chinese government and the people of China, following the provisions of the UEESOO Convention of 1970, concerning cultural material.
The material should be safeguarded until such time as it could be returned to the appropriate authorities in Peking.
His views are backed by other scientists who feel that the first concern should be to safeguard the material so that proper investigation can be made into the fossils.