Chinese Science Bulletin

, Volume 59, Issue 3, pp 335–343 | Cite as

On the possible use of fire by Homo erectus at Zhoukoudian, China

  • Maohua ZhongEmail author
  • Congling Shi
  • Xing Gao
  • Xinzhi Wu
  • Fuyou Chen
  • Shuangquan Zhang
  • Xingkai Zhang
  • John W. Olsen
Article Geology


For decades, the so-called Peking Man (Homo erectus pekinensis) at Zhoukoudian has been considered to be a hominin that engaged in the controlled production and management of fire. However, relatively recent analyses have cast doubt on this assertion. The most compelling reason for this doubt was the absence of siliceous aggregates in the Zhoukoudian deposits. This study presents evidence establishing the controlled use of fire by Homo erectus pekinensis through analyses of four soil samples sourced from Layers 4 and 6 at Zhoukoudian Locality 1. These results demonstrate that all four specimens contain siliceous aggregates as well as elemental carbon, and the potassium content of the insoluble residues of these specimens ranges between 1.21 % and 2.94 %. The analyses provide strong evidence of the in situ use of fire by Homo erectus pekinensis.


Homo erectus Zhoukoudian Fire use Middle pleistocene Siliceous aggregate Elemental carbon 



The authors thank L. He, J.H. Shi, and T.R. Fu for fruitful discussions; and X.J. Mei for field and laboratory assistance. This work was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDA05130202), and was identified as a Major Basic Research Project of the Ministry of Science and Technology of China (2007FY110200). Support was also received from the State Administration of Work Safety.


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maohua Zhong
    • 1
    Email author
  • Congling Shi
    • 1
  • Xing Gao
    • 2
  • Xinzhi Wu
    • 2
  • Fuyou Chen
    • 2
  • Shuangquan Zhang
    • 2
  • Xingkai Zhang
    • 1
  • John W. Olsen
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Transportation SafetyChina Academy of Safety Science and TechnologyBeijingChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory for Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and PaleoanthropologyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.School of AnthropologyUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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