The Coming of Sinanthropus

The Rockefeller Foundation for its part backed Black, and funding for the joint excavation at Longgushan went forward. But the Swedes were not quite out of the equation yet. The coalition asked Andersson and Wiman to help organize the excavation. The Rockefeller Foundation was particularly concerned that Black not be taken away from his duties at the medical school. By this time Otto Zdansky had published his paper on the initial results of the site and had no interest in coming back to China. Another one of Wiman's students, Dr. Birger Bohlin, who had studied some of the fossil giraffes from China, came out in 1927 to oversee the excavations at Longgushan.

Bohlin was a young and enthusiastic fieldworker. He had sailed to China with his wife, who lived in Beijing while he was at Longgushan. Had he been older and more experienced, he might well have been much more apprehensive of the situation into which he was headed. China was still occupied by very unpopular British, German, French, Japanese, and American military contingents, protected by the "unequal treaties" militarily forced upon China. The first president of China, nationalist Sun Yat-sen, who had been elected in 1912 after the collapse of the 268-year-old Qing Dynasty, had died in 1925. In 1927 the Nationalist party under Chiang Kai-shek, the Chinese Communist party with its future chairman Mao Tse-tung, and various local warlords were all vying for territory, power, and supremacy in China. The armies of two feuding warlords, Chang Tso-lin and Yen Hsi-shan, were fighting within earshot of the town of Zhoukoudian. Bohlin frequently saw troops marching back and forth, heard the cannon fire of their battles in the distance, and occasionally had to deal with bandits passing the excavation. But miraculously, no major incident marred his fieldwork. He started excavating on April 16, 1927, and finished only when he had discovered the long-awaited hominid, six months to the day after he began, on October 16. In all, Bohlin and his team moved three thousand cubic meters of cave sediment.

The fossil hominid that Bohlin found was only one tooth. But that did not stop his being elated at the discovery. As soon as he had closed down his operations at Longgushan, he hurried back to Beijing, avoiding soldiers and bandits along the way. He arrived at Davidson Black's lab at 6:30 P.M. on October 19, before he had even cleaned up or told his wife that he was back in Beijing. Black described him as "covered with dust but beaming with pleasure."26 When he saw the tooth, which was well preserved and undoubtedly hominid, Black was overjoyed. It had been a year since the meeting with the prince, and six long months of excavation. Bohlin had shipped back from the field a large number of wooden crates of fossil-containing sediment to be prepared in Beijing. Black noted that "Bohlin is quite certain that he will find more

The first human fossil discovered at Longgushan when excavations were resumed in 1927 was a lower molar tooth that anatomist Davidson Black named a new genus and species, Sinanthropus pekinensis. This is the cover page of Black's 1927 paper announcing the new species.

What Davidson Black did next has been considered remarkably prescient, politically expedient, or foolhardy and irresponsible, depending on one's perspective. On the basis of the single tooth that Bohlin had brought back to him, Black named a new genus and species of hominid, Sinanthropus pekinensis, published in Palaeontologia Sinica within a few weeks of discovery.27 It would perhaps have been more responsible to have at least waited until

Bohlin had had time to prepare the other hominid fossils that turned out to be in the sedimentary matrix, but Black decided to move fast. He did so, undoubtedly, to dispel the year's worth of doubt over the reality of Peking Man, and because more funding was needed from the Rockefeller Foundation to continue the excavations next season. With a formal Latin name and confidence that more fossils were on the way, Black sailed for North America and Europe. His mission was to lobby for acceptance of his new taxonomic name and to gain new funding from the Rockefeller Foundation. By the time he had returned to China, his diplomacy and persuasiveness had paid off. Funds were granted to continue the excavations. And Sinanthropus, based on a single tooth, was accorded more general scientific acceptance than another new hominid genus and species, Australopithecus africanus, based on an entire fossil skull and mandible with complete dentition, published two years previously 28 by another Elliot-Smith-trained anatomist, Raymond Dart.

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