The Hexian Homo erectus remains were excavated by a team from the IVPP, in association with local archaeologists, from Longtandong cave on the side of Wanjiashan mountain in Hexian County between 1980 and 1981. Recovered Homo erectus fossils include a fairly complete vault (PA 830), a fragmentary left mandibular body, frontal and parietal fragments and a number of teeth. These have been described in a number of publications (Wu and Dong 1982; Wu 1983; Huang et al. 1982, Han and Xu 1989; Dong 1989; Wu and Poirier 1995), however, as the majority of these were published in Chinese Hexian remains comparatively unknown outside of China. Wu and Poirier (1995) provide the most extensive description in English. It was thought that the dates for the Hexian site provide the most recent evidence for H. erectus in China. Chen et al (1987) reporting a range for Uranium series dates from 150,000-190,000, with a possible maximum of 270,000. Similar results were obtained by Li and Mei (1983 cited in Wu et al. 1989) with a Thermoluminesence date of 195,000±16,000. These dates would be more convincing if supported by other dating procedures, including ESR of hominid tooth enamel. This was acheived by Grunn and colleagues (1997) who reported a combined ESR/U-series estimate of 412 kyr for mammal teeth from the cave. A large range of vertebrate fauna was also recovered in the Hexian excavation and have been discussed by Han and Xu (1989) and Huang et al. (1982). The faunal composition show a mixture of cold adapted northern mammals and more subtropical-tropical southern elements.

The Hexian cranial vault is reasonably complete, with bone loss primarily restricted to the sphenoid region, roof of the orbits, zygomatic processes of the temporals, mastoid tips and baso-occiptal. There is some postdepositional distortion of the anterior third of the parietals resulting in a flattened profile and some asymetry. The vault while long and low is relatively broad for its length. Maximum cranial breadth is at the supramastoid ridge. The frontal is more receeding than at Zhoukoudian, with a supraorbital torus which is both broad and thick. Rather than forming a straight bar, as in most of the Javan hominids, the supraorbital torus tends to arch over each orbit and thins as you move laterally. There is a slight bulge in the frontal squama but this is not as pronounced as in Zhoukoudian H. erectus. Hexian does not have a median ridge or parasagittal depessions.

The occipital torus of Hexian forms a transverse smooth prominence, with the vault bone 17.8 mm thick at the centre of the torus. Laterally the torus extends towards asterion and there is a distinct supratoral sulcus. As is common in H. erectus there is an angular transition between the nuchal and occipital planes. Cranial vault bone thickness increases as you move posteriorly and inferiorly, with thickness at the parietal eminences 14.6 mm and asterion 18 mm. This basal reinforcement is similar to H. erectus from Zhoukoudian and Java. Endocranial volume for Hexian is approximately 1025 ml and the general level of robusticity suggests PA 830 was a male. Dimensions of the Hexian vault are provided below. If you are interested in more detailed anatomical information I suggest that you read the relevant section of Wu and Poirier 1995.

Hexian Homo erectus Hexian Homo erectus 2
Hexian Homo erectus teeth Hexian PA831 mandible

Dong Xingren and Hexian,IVPP 1984

Morphological and metrical comparisons of Hexian with H. erectus from Trinil, Ngandong and Zhoukoudian (Wu and Dong 1982; Dong 1989 above) have produced conflicting results. Wu and Dong (1982) found a general similarity in proportions and morphology indicating that all were members of the Homo erectus grade. In overall size Hexian was much more similar to Zhoukoudian than it was to the much smaller Trinil. However, in some proportions, and when viewed superiorly, Hexian was similar to Trinil. The great breadth of Hexian, possibly slightly influenced by postmortem squashing, was distinct from both Zhoukoudian and Trinil. Dong (1989) argued that the morphology of Hexian was closer to Javan H. erectus than it was to Zhoukoudian. In comparison to Zhoukoudian H. erectus, Hexian has much larger tooth crown dimensions and the left mandibular body fragment is thickened and taller relative to the other Chinese H. erectus mandibles. This is most likely just part of the normal range of variation within East Asian H. erectus morphology. A geometric morphometric comparison by Cui and Wu (2015) confirmed many of the conclusions reached by Wu and Dong (1982).

 Comparison of Hexian and Zhoukoudian Homo erectus and Dali "archaic" Homo sapiens.

Access to Hexian

The Hexian collection is housed in the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Beijing, China. Research workers interested in access to Hexian should write to Professor Wu Xinzhi,or Professor Wu Xiu Jie, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Academia Sinica, PO Box 164, Beijing, Peoples Republic of China.


Chen T, Yuan S, Guo S, and Hu Y (1987) Uranium series dating of fossil bones from the Hexian and Chaoxian human fossil sites. Acta Anthropologica Sinica 6:249-254.

Cui, Y., Wu, X. (2015) A geometric morphometric study of a Middle Pleistocene cranium from Hexian, China. Journal of Human Evolution. 88: 54-69.

Dong X (1989) Homo erectus in China. In R Wu, X Wu and S Zhang (eds.): Early humankind in China. Beijing: Science Press, pp. 9-23.

Grun, R., Huang, P-H., Huang, W., McDermott, F., Thorne, A. Stringer, C.B., Yan, G (1998) ESR and U-series analyses of teeth from the palaeoanthropological site of Hexian, Anhui Province, China. Journal of Human Evolution 34: 555-564.

Han D, and Xu C (1989) Quaternary mammalian faunas in south China. In R Wu, X Wu and S Zhang (eds.): Early humankind in China. Beijing: Science Press, pp. 338-391.

Huang W, Fang D, and Ye Y (1982) Preliminary study on the fossil hominid skull and fauna of Hexian, Anhui. Vertebrata PalAsiatica 20:248-257.

Wu, L., Martinon-Torres, M., Kaifu, Y., Kono, R.T., Chang, C-H., Wei, P., Xing, S. Huang, W. Bermudez de Castro, J.M. (2017) A mandible from the Middle Pleistocene Hexian site and its significance in relation to the variability of Asian Homo erectus. Am. J. Phys. Anth. 162: 715-731.

Wu M (1983) Homo erectus from Hexian, Anhui found in 1981. Acta Anthropologica Sinica 2:109-115.

Wu R, and Dong X (1982) Preliminary study of Homo erectus remains from Hexian, Anhui. Acta Anthropologica Sinica 1:2-13.

Wu R, and Lin S (1983) Peking Man. Scientific American 248:78-86.

Wu X, and Poirier FE (1995) Human evolution in China. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Xu Q (1984) Climate during the Hexian man's time. Acta Anthropologica Sinica 3:383-391.


Table 1. Dimensions of the Hexian cranial vault (PA 830)

Variable list Hexian
endocranial volume (1025)
glabella-opisthocranion 191
max bi-parietal 156
max cranial breadth 160
glabella-lambda 175
bi-auricular breadth 141
bi-asterion 141
max supraorbital breadth 110
min frontal breadth 101
nasion-bregma chord 101
nasion-bregma subt. 19
nasion-subtense fraction 44
bregma-lambda chord 101
bregma-lambda subt. 17
bregma-subtense fraction 50
lambda-opisthion chord 83
lambda-opisthion subt. 30
lambda-subtense fraction 30
lambda-inion 54
lambda-asterion 97
vault thickness mid-frontal 6.9
vault thickness bregma 8.2
vault thickness lambda 10.5
vault thickness asterion 18.0
vault thickness parietal boss (eminence) 14.6
vault thickness external occipital protuberance 17.8


East Asian Index