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Follow-up to Skulls, Race, and Origins

I wrote about this last week, but the People’s Daily today weighs in on the significance of the discovery at Xuchang. Researchers at the site located in Henan province uncovered a nearly-complete 100,000 skull that has caused great excitement in the Chinese scientific community.

The discovery at Xuchang supports the theory that modern Chinese man originated in what is present-day Chinese territory rather than Africa.

There are still scientists who insist on the multi-regional evolution model, which holds that modern man descended from several indigenous archaic human populations in the Old World, such as the Neanderthals, who resided in Europe, or from the so-called Java man, or Peking man in Asia.

The oldest human fossils found in China so far are those of the 1.7-million-year old Yuanmou Hominid. All ancient human fossils unearthed in China share a common morphology: shovel-shaped fore-teeth, a rectangular eye pit and a flat face, which indicate that ancient man living in China evolved continuously along an uninterrupted evolutionary chain for 1.7 million years.

The Xuchang man helps support the multi-regional theory.

Extraordinary archaeological discoveries are critical to maintaining our national identity as well as the history of our ancient civilization.

That last line is the money quote. Not to repeat myself from last week, but I have a hunch that “maintaining our national identity” is at least as important (if not more so) in interpreting these finding as was scientific methodology. I hope I’m wrong, but I have a really bad feeling I’m not.

8 Comments on Follow-up to Skulls, Race, and Origins

  1. Jeremiah, I read from another poster in another blog that you are history buff. Would you agree that History is written by the victors and therefore far from factual. What is your take on Dr Prof Anatoly Flemenko’s new chronology and his encylopedic publication “History, fiction or science? I read somewhere that in the 19th century there were historians who contested the east to west migration of civilisation orthodoxy to be heresy, but not the legend of Atlantis.

  2. Chris,

    Welcome to the Granite Studio.

    I really haven’t read Fomenko’s work myself, but my understanding frm excerpts and reviews is that he is a brilliant mathematician whose historical theories few outside Russia take very seriously.

    But that said, history is not a set of ideas fixed, as your 19th century anecdote shows. Ideas need to be constantly challenged and tested.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Thank you Jeremiah for your reply. May I leave you with the following excerpt from a book of Alternative history sort and a link:
    “Archaeologists are more than lax to explain who these foreigners or mysterious ancestors were. The world over, legends affirm that indigenous forebears were not the builders, astronomers, and healers. Investigators have habitually looked to every country except Ireland for their answers. It is almost comical to say that we can be certain that Ireland played a seminal role merely because the laws of exclusion are in its favor. All other countries have been studied and can be struck off as originators of civilization. So dare we now, at long last, face the truth that has lain in plain sight for so long? Dare we examine the evidence for the Irish origins of civilization and have done with the damnable conundrums?

  4. “That last line is the money quote.”

    Too right! And very predictable. As I responded in the earlier thread, the danger with such discoveries is that the science of paleoanthropology and objectivity will play second fiddle to China’s worrying psychological desire for racial distinction.

  5. Stuart,

    I couldn’t agree more with your concern, and I’m hopeful that the Chinese scientific community does too.

  6. if one pokes around at all in early anthropology, history, sociology, etc. (and by “early,” i mean much of 19th and 20th century), this sort of approach is not as uncommon as one would expect.

    not that the noble dream of objective or at least politically disinterested scholarship isn’t still worth carrying a torch for, but it’s not a peculiarly chinese problem by any stretch.

  7. Wu Ming,

    I agree. As I said in my original post, in the early years, this approach in China was very much an imitation of what was going on in western science at the time.

    Ps. I’m definitely missing the Davis weather. Even in January, it’s gotta be better than Beijing.

  8. My grandparents hailed from Fujian, Southern China. I look quintessentially Chinese (black hair, ‘yellow’ skin, flat face, and if I could get my hands on one of those nifty dentist little-mirror-for-the-mouth jiggers, I expect I would find shovel-shaped front teeth).

    I sent in a couple of swabs to the Genographic Project and here are the results. My great, great great, great (keep going) grandmama was an African lady 8)

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