Treacherous Evidence: Archival Documents and the Search for Peking Man

Main Article Content

Michael F. Roberts
Elizabeth M. DeVisser
Joel P. Marrant

Abstract

The Peking Man skeletal materials, excavated in China in the 1920s and 1930s, disappeared in December 1941. The assumption that the fossils were acquired by the U.S. military has emerged as the core idea of what we call the “Standard Scenario.” We challenge this scenario by 1) highlighting the factual and chronological inconsistencies in the accounts of the loss of the fossils; 2) critiquing the casual and uncritical acceptance of personal reports lacking independent verification; 3) emphasizing the absence in official archives of supposed documents used to support the Standard Scenario; and, 4) reanalyzing a 1972 photograph used by some investigators to associate the fossils with the U.S. Marines. Our detailed forensic analysis strongly suggests the 1972 photograph is a deception. In addition, we present 5) a previously unknown document from U.S. State Department archives that indicates it is very unlikely that the fossils were delivered to American hands. We propose that there is no evidence the U.S. ever obtained the fossils and that any future investigations must be based on research into actual documents relevant to their loss. Our approach should invite mindful consideration of alternatives to the Standard Scenario that have been thus far ignored.

Article Details

Section
Articles

References

Aczel, A. 2007. The Jesuit and the Skull. New York, Riverhead Books.

Allentoft, M.E., M. Collins, D. Harker, J. Haile, C.L. Oskam, M.L. Hale, P.F. Campos, J.A. Samaniego, M.T.P. Gilbert, E. Willerslev, G. Zhang, R.P. Scofield, R.N. Holdaway, and M. Bunce. 2012. The half-life of DNA in bone: measuring decay kinetics in 158 dated fossils. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 279: 4724–4733.

Bartlett, A. 1979. Sherlock never solved one like this. Interview with Harry Shapiro, Taconic Newspapers, October 3-4. New York, AMNH Archives, Shapiro Collection, box 26.

Berger, L.R., W. Liu, and X. Wu. 2012. Investigation of a credible report by a US Marine on the location of the missing Peking Man fossils. South African Journal of Science 108 (3/4): 1–3.

Biggs, C.M., Jr. 2003. The United States Marines in North China, 1894-1942. London, McFarland & Company, Inc.

Black, D. 1926. Tertiary Man in Asia: the Chou Kou Tien Discovery. Nature 118: 733-734.

Black, D. 1927. On a lower molar hominid tooth from the Chou Kou Tien Deposit. Palaeontologia Sinica Series D, vol. 7: 1–28.

Boaz, N., R.L. Ciochon, Q. Xu, and J. Liu. 2004. Mapping and taphonomic analysis of the Homo erectus loci at Locality 1 Zhoukoudian, China. Journal of Human Evolution 46: 519–549.

Boaz, N.T and R.L. Ciochon. 2004. Dragon Bone Hill: An Ice-Age Saga of Homo erectus. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Bulletin of the Swiss-Chinese Chamber of Commerce. 2010. Bulletin 1.

Cappellini, E., F. Welke, L. Pandolfi, J. Ramos Madrigal, A.K. Fotakis, D. Lyon, V.J. Moreno Mayar, M. Bukhsianidze, R. Rakownikow Jersie-Christensen, M. Mackie, A. Ginolhac, R. Ferring, M. Tappen, E. Palkopoulou, M.R. Dickinson, T.W. Stafford Jr., Y. L. Chan, A. Götherström, S.K.S.S. Nathan, P.D. Heintzman, J.D. Kapp, I. Kirillova, Y. Moodley, J. Agusti, R.-D. Kahlke, G. Kiladze, B. Martínez-Navarro, S. Liu, M. Sandoval Velasco, M.-H.S. Sinding, C.D. Kelstrup, M.E. Allentoft, L. Orlando, K. Penkman, B.Shapiro, L. Rook 4 , L. Dalén, M.T.P. Gilbert, J.V. Olsen, D. Lordkipanidze, and E. Willerslev. 2019. Early Pleistocene enamel proteome sequences from Dmanisi resolve Stephanorhinus phylogeny. Nature 574: 103–107.

Chu, J.Y., W. Huang, S.Q. Kuang, J.M. Wang, J.J. Xu, Z.T. Chu, Z.Q. Yang, K.Q. Lin, P. LIe, M. Wu, Z.C. Geng, C.C. Tan, R. F. Du,, and L. Jin. 1998. Genetic relationship of populations in China. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 95: 11763–11768.

Clark, J.D. 1993. African and Asian perspectives on the origins of modern humans. In M.J. Aitken, C.B. Stringer, and P.A. Mellars (eds.), The Origin of Modern Humans and the Impact of Chronometric Dating. Princeton, Princeton University Press, pp. 148–179.

Commandant of the Marine Corps to Chief of Naval Operations, letter 6 May, 1947, Franz Weidenreich Collection, American Museum of Natural History Library.

Confidential U.S. State Department Central Files 1940-1944. This file dated August 9, 1943. College Park, MD. National Archives II, Dec. File # 893.9261/3.

Cox, J. 1974. Whatever happened to Peking Man? Harvard Magazine, September 1974: 20–27, 46–48.

Crittenden, W.H. 1995. List of the China Marines. http://www.mansell.com/pow_resources/unit_rosters/china_marines.html. Accessed May 28, 2017.

Daniel, D.C. and K.L. Herbig (eds.). 1981. Strategic Military Deception: Pergamon Policy Studies on Security Affairs. New York, Pergamon Press.

DeVisser, E.M., J.P. Marrant, and M.F. Roberts. A new analysis of an old box of bones: debunking a Peking Man deception. PaleoAnthropology 2021:1: 85–97.

Edwards, P.M. 2010. Between the Lines of World War II. Jefferson, NC, McFarland &. Company, Inc.

Fairservis, W. to F. Weidenreich, letter August 19, 1947. Franz Weidenreich Collection, American Museum of Natural History Library.

Fairservis, W. letter to P.H. Tansey and Memorandum: Recovery of the Sinanthropus Material. September 7, 1947. Franz Weidenreich Collection, American Museum of Natural History Library.

Ferguson, M.E. 1970. The China Medical Board and Peking Union Medical College. New York, China Medical Board of New York, Inc.

Ferguson, M.E. to H. Shapiro, letter March 18, 1973. Harry Shapiro Collection, American Museum of Natural History Library.

Foley, W. 1971–72. A small contribution to the mystery of Peking Man. Cornell University Medical College Alumni Quarterly Winter: 5–12, .

Foreign Missions Conference of North America. 1921. The Missions Code, Cipher and Telegraph Codes, p. 18.

Frank, B.M. and H.L. Shaw, Jr. 1968. Victory and occupation: history of U.S. Marine Corps operations in World War II. Chapter V-2, p. 538. Historical Branch, G-3 Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. Also available online at http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USMC/V/. Accessed August 8, 2017.

Gauss, Clarence. 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarence_E._Gauss. Accessed May 24, 2020.

Grutzner, C. 1952. Peking Man bones may be in China if not consumed as medicine there. New York Times, Jan. 4. pp. 1 and 16.

Gustafson, M.O. to H.C. Peterson, letter June 20, 1973. College Park, MD. National Archives II, Reference Subject File: China (Peking Man).

Hasebe, T. 1945. Response to Pei (1945a). College Park, MD, National Archives II, Record Group 331, Box 4213, “Fossil bones of the so-called Peking Man,”

Hawkes, J. 1963. The World of the Past. New York, Alfred A. Knopf.

Hester, T.R., H.J. Shafer, and K.L. Feder. 2009. Field Methods in Archaeology, 7th ed. Mt. View, CA, Mayfield Publishing Co.

Hood, D. 1964. Davidson Black, a Biography. Toronto, University of Toronto Press.

Hooker, J. 2006. The search for Peking Man. The famous fossils are still MIA, but does Chinese paleontology miss them? Archaeology March/April: 59–66.

Howells, W.W. 1949. Mankind So Far. New York, Doubleday.

Howells, W.W. 1967. Mankind in the Making. New York, Doubleday.

Houghton, H.S. Interview by M.E. Ferguson. 1961. Sleepy Hollow, NY, Rockefeller Archive Center, China Medical Board, FA 044, box 3, Houghton.

Huffman, O.F., J. de Vos, A.W. Berkhout, and F. Aziz. 2010. Provenience reassessment of the 1931–1933 Ngandong Homo erectus (Java), confirmation of the bone-bed origin reported by the discoverers. PaleoAnthropology 2010: 1−60.

Janus, C. and W. Brashler. 1975. The Search for Peking Man. New York, McMillan Publshing Co., Inc.

Jia, L. and W. Huang (tr. Yin Zhiqi). 1990. The Story of Peking Man. Beijing, Foreign Language Press; Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Johnson, Nelson T., Wikipedia article. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelson_T._Johnson. Accessed June 14, 2017.

Kamminga, J. and R.V.S. Wright. 1988. The Upper Cave at Zhoukoudian and the origins of the Mongoloids. Journal of Human Evolution 17: 739–767.

Lawrence, R. 2010. W.W. Ashurst biographical information. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=49002657. Accessed June 14, 2017.

Li, B. 1997. Chinese Archaeology in the Last Twenty Years. Orientations 28: 34–37.

Li, M. and N. Yue. 2000. Search for Peking Man. Beijing, Hua Xia Publishers.

Lobenstein, E.C. letter May 27, 1941. Sleepy Hollow, New York, Rockefeller Archive Center, China Medical Board, Record Group IV 2 B 9, box 58, folder ‘field studies.’

MacKinnon, R.M. Letter to W. Fairservis, 22 July, 1947. Franz Weidenreich Collection, American Museum of Natural History Library.

Manias, C. 2014. Sinanthropus in Britain: human origins and international science, 1920–1939. British Journal of the History of Science. Available on CJO 2014 doi:10.1017/ S0007087414000909.

Mann, A. and J. Monge. 1987. Reproducing our ancestors. Expedition 29: 2–9.

Map of Peking Legation Quarter, as of 1912. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/07/Peking_legation_quarter.jpg. Accessed June 25, 2017.

Meyer, M. J.-L. Arsuaga, C. de Filippo, S. Nagel, A. Aximu-Petri, B. Nickel, I. Martinez, A. Gracia, J.M. Bermúdez de castro, E. Carbonell, B. Viola, J. Kelso, K. Prüfer and S. Pääbo. 2016. Nuclear DNA sequences from the Middle Pleistocene Sima de los Huesos hominins. Nature 531: 504–508.

Moore, R. 1965. Man, Time, and Fossils, 2nd ed. New York, Alfred A. Knopf.

New York, U.S. Index to Petitions for Naturalizations. Document of Franz Weidenreich citizenship, November 27, 1944. Petition 492215, document 6224734. Ancestry.com. Petitions for Naturalization filed in New York City, 1792-1969.

New York, U.S., State and federal naturalization records, 1794-1943. (Roll 570) Declarations of intention for citizenship.

Orlando, L. A. Ginolhac, G. Zhang, D. Froese, A. Albrechtsen, M. Stiller, M. Schubert, E. Cappellini, B. Petersen, I. Moltke, P.L F. Johnson, M. Fumagalli, J.T. Vilstrup, M. Raghavan, T. Korneliussen, A.-S. Malaspinas, J. Vogt, D. Szklarczyk, C.D. Kelstrup, J. Vinther, A. Dolocan, J. Stenderup, A.M.V. Velazquez, J. Cahill, M. Rasmussen, X. Wang, J. Min, G.D. Zazula, A. Seguin-Orlando, C. Mortensen, K. Magnussen, J. F. Thompson,

J. Weinstock, K. Gregersen K.H. Røed, V. Eisenmann, C. J. Rubin, D.C. Miller, D. F. Antczak, M.F. Bertelsen, S. Brunak, K.A.S. Al-Rasheid, O. Ryder, L. Andersson, J. Mundy, A. Krogh, M.T.P. Gilbert, K. Kjær, T. Sicheritz-Ponten, L.J. Jensen, J.V. Olsen, M. Hofreiter, R. Nielsen, B. Shapiro, J. Wang, and E. Willerslev. 2013. Recalibrating Equus evolution using the genome sequence of an early Middle Pleistocene horse. Nature 499: 74–81.

Pedro Loureiro Collection. U.S.C. Digital Library, http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/p15799coll12. Accessed May 20, 2020.

Pei, W.C. (no date). Studies in Chinese Prehistory, Chapter 4, translated by A. Shen, edited by M.H. Fried. New York, AMNH Archives, Shapiro Collection, box 75.

Pei, W.C. 1945a. “Article written for United Press after V-J Day”. College Park, MD, National Archives II, Record Group 331, Box 4213, “Fossil bones of the so-called Peking Man.”

Pei, W.C. 1945b. Where is Peking Man? Article c, typescript of article published in Ta Kung Pao, December 4, 1945, Tientsin. National Archives II, Record Group 331, Box 4213, “Fossil bones of the so-called Peking Man.”

Plumb, R.K. 1952. Peking man bones borne by marine (interview with W.W. Ashurst), New York Times, Jan 5, 1952, p. 3.

PUMC Trustees’ minutes, September 22, 1945, Sleepy Hollow, New York, Rockefeller Archive Center, China Medical Board, Record Group IV 2 B 9, box 58, folder ‘field studies.’

PUMC Trustees’ minutes, May 2, 1948, Sleepy Hollow, New York, Rockefeller Archive Center, China Medical Board, Record Group IV 2 B 9, box 58, folder ‘field studies.’

Purport List, College Park, MD. 1943. National Archives II, Publication M973, Internal affairs – China – science (Dec. File # 893.9261), roll 601.

Pyne, L. 2016. Seven Skeletons. New York, Viking.

Qiu, J. 2016. The forgotten continent. Nature 535: 218–220.

Renshaw, M. Peking Union Medical College Basement Plan. http://www.michellerenshaw.com/architect-designed-hospitals-peking-union-medical-college-harry-hussey/attachment/pumc_basement_floor_plan_rac#main. Accessed October 23, 2017.

Rightmire, P. 1990. The Evolution of Homo erectus. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Roster of 4th Marines, China 1941. http://www.west-point.org/family/japanese-pow/Marines/4thMarineRegt.htm. Accessed July 7, 2017.

Sautman, B. 2001. Peking man and the politics of palaeoanthropological nationalism in China. Journal of Asian Studies 60: 95–124.

Schmalzer, S. 2008. The People’s Peking Man. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Schwartz, J.H. and I. Tattersall. 2005. The Human Fossil Record, volume 2. New York, Wiley-Liss Publishers.

Shapiro, H. 1971. The strange, unfinished saga of Peking Man. Natural History 80: 3-18; 74–77.

Shapiro, H. 1974. Peking Man: The Discovery, Disappearance and Mystery of a Priceless Scientific Treasure. New York, Simon and Schuster.

Shapiro, H. 1979. Letter to Woo Ju-Kang, undated handwritten version (but probably 1979). New York, AMNH Archives, Shapiro Collection, box 75.

Shapiro, H. 1980. Handwritten notes regarding trip to China, September 26, 1980. New York, AMNH Archives, Shapiro Collection, box 145.

Shen, G., X. Gao, B. Gao, and D.E. Granger. 2009. Age of Zhoukoudian Homo erectus determined with 26Al/10Be burial dating. Nature 458: 198–200.

Shen, G.Y. 2014. Unearthing the Nation. Modern Geology and Nationalism in Republican China. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Stringer, C. 2012. What makes a modern human. Nature 485: 33–35.

Suzuki, H. 1945. Letter to U.S. Occupation forces in October 1945. Whitmore Collection, Smithsonian Institution.

Tansey, P.H. 1947. Letter to Chairman, Chinese Reparations and Restitution Delegation, memo dated 7 September 1947. College Park, MD, National Archives II, Record Group 331, box 4213, folder: fossil bones of the so-called “Peking Man.”

Templeton, A.R. 2007. Genetics and recent human evolution. Evolution 61: 1507–1519.

van Osterzee, P. 2000. Dragon Bones: The Story of Peking Man. Cambridge, MA, Perseus Publishing, U.S.A.

Weidenreich, F. to Weng Wenhao, letter July 11, 1941. Franz Weidenreich Collection, American Museum of Natural History Library.

Weidenreich, F. 1943. The skull of Sinanthropus pekinensis; a comparative study on a primitive hominid skull. Palaeontologia Sinica New Series D No. 10. Whole series No. 127.

Weng, W. to H. Houghton, letter 10 January 1941, Sleepy Hollow, New York, Rockefeller Archive Center, China Medical Board, Record Group IV 2 B 9, box 58, folder ‘field studies.’

Wolpoff, M. and R. Caspari. 1997. Race and Human Evolution. New York, Simon and Schuster.

Wu, X. and Athreya, S. 2013. A description of the geological context, discrete traits, and linear morphometrics of the Middle Pleistocene hominin from Dali, Shaanxi Province, China. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 150: 141–157.