Today scientists who study human evolution use an increasingly multidisciplinary approach to test their hypotheses. Nevertheless, the theories of fossil-based evolutionists and those of molecular-based evolutionists have resulted in a lively intellectual competition. This clash of mindsets and theoretical persuasions first became evident in the interpretations of Sinanthropus. Franz Weidenreich was a pivotal figure.
In this chapter we will look at the twists and turns of the paleoanthropo-logical interpretation of Peking Man—the first, largely fanciful and hopeful pronouncements; the more mature hypotheses based on the remarkably complete fossil remains; the comparative studies of Zhoukoudian with other sites and hominids from around the globe; and finally the understanding of Peking Man after all the pre—World War II fossils had been pulled out of the ground. The ideas evolved as the data accumulated from this remarkable site and, as we shall see, they led us to our modern conception of this unique human species.
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