“Sinanthropus” (Member of the Species Homo Erectus)

Fossil remains of so called “Sinanthropus” − the East Asian Homo erectus, who inhabited eastern China in the Middle Pleistocene (400-500 thousand years ago) − were discovered in a cave near Zhoukoudian, 48 km southwest of Beijing by Pei Wenzhong and other archeologists in the 1920s and 1930s. Excavations had continued until 1937 and were cut short by the Japanese invasion. The fossils were lost. After the war, excavations in the cave were resumed.

The main contribution to the anthropological study of the “China man” was made by Franz Weidenreich, a German anthropologist, who worked in China and then in the USA. He has demonstrated the similarity between “Sinanthropus” and another member of the same species, who lived in Southeast Asia and was previously known as Pithecanthropus. “Sinanthropus” differed from “Pithecanthropus” by a more evolved morphology because of being later.

Weidenreich regarded “Sinanthropus” as the ancestor of modern Mongoloids. Later, however, no specific similarity was detected between “Sinanthropus” and the Mongoloids. Genetic data suggest that the common ancestors of all modern people lived much later − about 200 thousand years ago, and only in Africa. The dispersal of anatomically modern humans from Africa apparently occurred no earlier than 50 thousand years ago. The role of Asian Homo erectus in the emergence of Homo sapiens is not clear. Most likely these hominids became extinct, although some of their descendents may have mixed with anatomically modern humans.

The «China men» made crude stone tools of the Lower Paleolithic type. Judging by a thick layer of ash and charcoal in the cave deposits, they were able to maintain fire for a long time, but could hardly have produced it. Numerous animal bones, including those of large animals, were found in the cave. This, however, may evidence carnivore rather than human activity. The role of hunting in the life of “Sinanthropus” is yet unclear.

Skulls of these ancient hominids differed from those of modern people by a far greater robustness, a more developed facial skeleton compared to the braincase, low vault, retreating forehead, supraorbital torus, and absence of bone chin.

To reconstruct the appearance of the “China man”, M.M. Gerasimov used the reconstruction of the cranium done by Weidenreich from the preserved vault, fragments of facial bones, and teeth of different individuals. What we see, then, is a generalized sculptural portrait of the ancient East Asian representative of the genus Homo.

Location of Zhoukoudian cave, ChinaChina man’s” braincase. Plaster cast.“Sinanthropus” skull, reconstructed
by Franz Weidenreich. Plaster cast.

The appearance of
“Sinanthropus”, reconstructed
by M.M. Gerasimov. Plaster.

Mikhail Gerasimov’s Career
Mikhail Gerasimov as an Archaeologist
Reconstruction of the Face from the Cranium
“Sinanthropus” (Member of the Species Homo Erectus)
Homo Neanderthalensis (Neanderthal man)
Neanderthal Child from Teshik-Tash
People of the Upper Paleolithic
People of the Mesolithic
People of the Early Iron Age
Drawings by M.M. Gerasimov