This Week in History
Birth of Davidson Black
|For the week of Monday July 20, 1998
On July 25, 1884, Davidson Black was born in Toronto, Ontario. Black developed an interest in physical anthropology, especially the study of early humankind from fossils. In 1927, he discovered fossil remains near Peking (now Beijing) in China. The fossils, which were nicknamed the "Peking Man," brought anthropologists a step closer to explaining the evolution of the human race.
Black believed that humankind's most immediate ancestors originated from Asia. He set out to prove this through a series of archaeological digs conducted in central Asia. By 1927, his search for early humans led him to a cave at Zhoukoudian, where Dr. Otto Zdansky had recently discovered the tooth of a creature resembling a human being. At this site, Black unearthed the "Peking Man," in the form of various skeletal fragments, including skull, limb, teeth and jawbones. The fossils were dated as being between 300 000 and 500 000 years old! Black identified a new species, which he believed was the last pre-human phase of our evolution.
Not everyone agrees with Black's interpretation of the fossil remains. Some people believe that the fossils do not represent a primitive human being, but are instead the remains of an ape. Despite this debate, Davidson Black is highly respected for his contribution to theories of evolution. To honour these contributions, Davidson Black is recognized by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada with a plaque in Toronto. In 1987, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee recognized the significance of the Peking Man discovery as an exceptional reminder of pre-human Asian society. Zhoukoudian, the site of the 1927 archaeological dig, is a World Heritage Site.
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