DRAGON BONE HILL: An Ice-Age Saga of Homo Erectus

Noel T. Boaz, Author, Russell L. Ciochon, Joint Author . Oxford Univ. $30 (232p) ISBN 978-0-19-515291-3

Dragon Bone Hill is the name of the archeological site in China where Peking Man was found in the 1920s. Although all of the original Peking Man fossils were lost during the Japanese occupation of China, casts remain and have shown that Peking Man should be classified as Homo erectus, an early ancestor of humans. Ross University anatomist Boaz (Evolving Health ) and University of Iowa anthropologist Ciochon (The Human Evolution Source Book ) tell two entertaining tales as they explore many facets of the Homo erectus story. The first deals with the discovery of Peking Man and provides much insight into the politics of early paleoanthropology. As part of this story, the authors also attempt to resolve the oft-examined question of what happened to the original fossils. They don't present a great deal of new information and come to the same conclusion as many others (notably Nicole Mones in her novel Lost in Translation ), suggesting that, after being discarded by Japanese troops, the fossils were ground up and turned into medicinal products by Chinese locals. Their second story addresses the evolutionary place of Peking Man and presents "hypotheses on the origins of the use of fire, the beginnings of human language, the evolution of the brain, hunting, cannibalism, stone and bone tool use and ancient human diet." They conclude that Homo erectus was primarily a scavenger incapable of speech who had learned to tame but not fully control fire. Accessible to the general reader, this volume provides a nice overview of the subject. B&w illus. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 11/03/2003
Release date: 02/01/2004
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