Jan 4, 2009

Book Review: The Peking Man Is Missing by Clare Taschdjian

The Peking Man Is Missing
Learned more about the missing Peking Man fossils which disappeared in China in 1941 on the way to the U.S.S. William Harrison, a U.S. troopship that would have taken the 600,000-year-old fossils to the United States for safekeeping.

The novel, The Peking Man Is Missing by Clare Taschdjian, was first printed in 1977 and reprinted in November 2008, and is based on the author's personal experience in China. She claims to be one of the last persons to have seen the fossils, which were crated and transported, but eventually lost though under the protection of the U.S. Marines.

Because of the wartime situation, the human fossils, originally discovered near Beijing in the 1920s, never arrived at port and could not be traced, and the question remains - What became of them? Were they destroyed, thrown away, or are they in Japan, in the United States, or still in China? Rumors and theories abound - one theory is that the crates of fossils were opened by the Japanese who had stopped the train heading to the USS Harrison, that the fossils were seen as remains of U.S. soldiers, and thrown out. An ironic and sad end, if it is true.

Taschdjian's book, a work of fiction, presents a hypothetical situation - it has the fossils traveling from China by footlocker and by trunk to Cuba, and then to the U.S., where they are eventually thrown away by a superstitious landlady who found them in the apartment after the untimely death of her tenant. The landlady had no idea that the bones were priceless fossils, as she thought her former tenant was a witch who used human bones for her witchcraft. Another ironic twist to this tale.

It remains one of the great mysteries in the history of paleontology. What became of Peking Man? It is generally assumed that the Peking Man fossils are perhaps forever lost, even though the governments of China, Japan, and the Americans, have tried unsuccessfully to locate them.

1 comment:

  1. I like to read about missing relics. Would love to read about The Peking Man.

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