Unesco digs deep to save caveman site

August 4, 1995

The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation is appealing for help to raise Pounds 1.6 million to fund emergency protection of the endangered Peking Man site in China.

The money is needed to help prevent disintegration of the famous site that since 1921 has produced the fossilised remains of more than 40 people who lived there between 250,000 and 300,000 years ago.

Wu Xinzhi, senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences says that the Peking Man site, located about 50 kilometres southwest of Beijing, is in a "state of weathering and erosion".

He said the site is a unique and abundant archaeological source offering the most complete knowledge available of the evolutionary pattern of early man.

Part of the money will come from the Unesco budget, and it is hoped the rest will be donated by various countries, said Edmond Moukala, cultural programme officer of Unesco's Beijing office.

Archaeologists have so far only excavated one third of the deposits and work has been suspended due to lack of money. As well as more field work, the conservation programme includes reinforcing the cave walls, building a cover for the entire site, and restoring the museum.

Unesco is this month launching a publicity campaign directed mainly at Beijing-based foreign diplomats and executives, who will be invited to visit the site in August and September.

The fund-raising move is supported by the Beijing International Society, an organisation made up of academics, students, foreign diplomats, and businessmen in Beijing.

Archaeological work was set back when many of the most precious specimens, including five human skulls, were lost during the second world war. More artefacts went missing during the chaos of the Cultural Revolution which lasted from 1966 to 1976. More than 200,000 tourists visit the site every year.

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