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Peking Man site damaged by heavy rainfall

By Peng Yining (China Daily)

08:42, July 27, 2012

About 160 historical sites, including the Peking Man World Heritage Site at Zhoukoudian, were damaged in storms that lashed Beijing on Saturday. The direct economic losses reached 800 million yuan ($125 million), according to Beijing Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage.

The deluge caused several small-scale landslides at the Peking Man site and disabled its security system, according to Li Yan, senior administrator at Zhoukoudian, located in a village 50 kilometers southwest of Beijing. A museum at the site was flooded, but the major exhibits are all safe.

Dirt and mud washed by the heaviest rainfall in six decades covered part of the archaeological dig at Zhoukoudian and halted researchers' work for at least three days, according to Zhang Shuangquan, an archaeologist at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Zhang said he was concerned most that a potential landslide caused by the downpour might destroy the whole dig site, which is on a cliff.

If the rock stratum were to collapse, it would lose its value for archaeology, because researchers learn how people lived in the past by taking account of the depth of objects and human remains embedded in the rock.

"A period of human civilization would be buried in mystery forever," said Zhang, who has been excavating the site since 2009.

Zhoukoudian's administrators covered the site with plastic sheets two years ago, but Zhang said the protection would be ineffective unless the whole mountain top were covered, because rain slowly permeates rocks, making the stratum fragile.

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