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Johan Gunnar Andersson

Johan Gunnar Andersson

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Johan Gunnar Andersson Swedish
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 archaeologist, paleontologist and geologist
Geologist
A geologist is a scientist who studies the solid and liquid matter that constitutes the Earth as well as the processes and history that has shaped it. Geologists usually engage in studying geology. Geologists, studying more of an applied science than a theoretical one, must approach Geology using...

, closely associated with the beginnings of Chinese
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 archaeology in the 1920s. His Chinese name was An Tesheng (安特生).

After studies at Uppsala University
Uppsala University
Uppsala University is a research university in Uppsala, Sweden, and is the oldest university in Scandinavia, founded in 1477. It consistently ranks among the best universities in Northern Europe in international rankings and is generally considered one of the most prestigious institutions of...

, and research in the polar regions, Andersson served as Director of Sweden's National Geological Survey.

He participated in the Swedish Antarctic Expedition
Swedish Antarctic Expedition
The Swedish Antarctic Expedition was led by Otto Nordenskjöld and Carl Anton Larsen.-Background:Otto Nordenskjöld, a Swedish geologist and geographer, organized and lead a scientific expedition of the Antarctic Peninsula...

 of 1901 to 1903 (on the ship Antarctic
Antarctic (ship)
The Antarctic was a Swedish steamship built in Drammen, Norway in 1871. She was used on several research expeditions to the Arctic region and to Antarctica through 1898-1903. In 1895 the first confirmed landing on the mainland of Antarctica was made from this ship.-The ship:Antarctic was a barque...

).

In 1914 he was invited to China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 as mining adviser to the Chinese government. His affiliation was with China's National Geological Survey (Dizhi diaochasuo) which was organized and led by the extraordinary Chinese scholar Ding Wenjiang
Ding Wenjiang
Ding Wenjiang , courtesy name Zaijun, was a Chinese geologist and social activist.Ding was born into a wealthy family in Taixing, Jiangsu Province. He went to study in Japan in 1902, and later studied in Britain, majoring in zoology and geology. In 1911, Ding graduated from University of Glasgow...

 (V.K. Ting). During this time, Andersson helped train China’s first generation of geologists, and also made numerous discoveries of iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

 ore
Ore
An ore is a type of rock that contains minerals with important elements including metals. The ores are extracted through mining; these are then refined to extract the valuable element....

 and other mining resources, as well as discoveries in geology
Geology
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

 and paleontology
Paleontology
Paleontology "old, ancient", ὄν, ὀντ- "being, creature", and λόγος "speech, thought") is the study of prehistoric life. It includes the study of fossils to determine organisms' evolution and interactions with each other and their environments...

.

Andersson paid his first visit to Zhoukoudian
Zhoukoudian
Zhoukoudian or Choukoutien is a cave system in Beijing, China. It has yielded many archaeological discoveries, including one of the first specimens of Homo erectus, dubbed Peking Man, and a fine assemblage of bones of the gigantic hyena Pachycrocuta brevirostris...

 in 1918 drawn to an area called Chicken-bone Hill by locals who have misidentified the rodent fossils that are found in abundance there. He returned in 1921 and was led by local quarrymen to Dragon Bone Hill where he identified quartz that was not local to the area. Realising that this may indicate the presence of prehistoric man he set his assistant, Otto Zdansky
Otto Zdansky
Otto A. Zdansky was an Austrian paleontologist.He is best known for his work in China, where he, as an assistant to Johan Gunnar Andersson, discovered a fossil tooth of the Peking Man in 1921 at the Dragon Bone Hill, although he did not disclose it until 1926 when he published it in Nature after...

, to work excavating. Zdansky returned for further excavations in 1923 and a great deal of material was shipped to Uppsala for analysis. Eventually in 1926, on the occasion of a visit by the Swedish Prince to Beijing
Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

, Andersson announced the discovery of two human teeth. These are later identified as being the first finds of Peking Man
Peking Man
Peking Man , Homo erectus pekinensis, is an example of Homo erectus. A group of fossil specimens was discovered in 1923-27 during excavations at Zhoukoudian near Beijing , China...

.

In collaboration with Chinese colleagues such as Yuan Fuli and others, he then discovered prehistoric Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 remains in central China’s Henan Province, along the Yellow River
Yellow River
The Yellow River or Huang He, formerly known as the Hwang Ho, is the second-longest river in China and the sixth-longest in the world at the estimated length of . Originating in the Bayan Har Mountains in Qinghai Province in western China, it flows through nine provinces of China and empties into...

. The remains were named Yangshao culture
Yangshao culture
The Yangshao culture was a Neolithic culture that existed extensively along the central Yellow River in China. The Yangshao culture is dated from around 5000 BC to 3000 BC. The culture is named after Yangshao, the first excavated representative village of this culture, which was discovered in 1921...

 after the village where they were first excavated, in 1921. This too was a highly important breakthrough, since the prehistory of what is now China had not yet been investigated in scientific archaeological excavations and the Yangshao and other prehistoric cultures were completely unknown (they had never been mentioned in any historical documents, and had never before been recognized and investigated).

In the following years, 1923–24, Andersson, in his capacity as a staff member of China's National Geological Survey, conducted archaeological excavations in the provinces of Gansu
Gansu
' is a province located in the northwest of the People's Republic of China.It lies between the Tibetan and Huangtu plateaus, and borders Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Ningxia to the north, Xinjiang and Qinghai to the west, Sichuan to the south, and Shaanxi to the east...

 and Qinghai
Qinghai
Qinghai ; Oirat Mongolian: ; ; Salar:) is a province of the People's Republic of China, named after Qinghai Lake...

, again in collaboration with Chinese colleagues, and published numerous books and scientific papers on Chinese archaeology, many in the Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, which he founded and launched in 1929, and where he published his most significant scientific reports on his own work.

Andersson's most well-known popular book on his time in China is Den gula jordens barn, 1932, translated into several languages, including English (as Children of the Yellow Earth, 1934, reprinted 1973), Japanese, and Korean. For an extensive bibliography of Andersson's works, and a comprehensive discussion of his and his colleagues' archaeological research in China, see M. Fiskesjö and Chen Xingcan, China before China: Johan Gunnar Andersson, Ding Wenjiang, and the Discovery of China's Prehistory. Stockholm: Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities
Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities
The Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities , Stockholm, Sweden. Is a public museum launched by Sweden's Parliament in 1926, with the Swedish archaeologist Johan Gunnar Andersson as founding director. The museum was originally based mainly on Andersson's groundbreaking discoveries in China, during the...

 [Östasiatiska museet], 2004.

In 1926, Andersson founded the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities
Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities
The Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities , Stockholm, Sweden. Is a public museum launched by Sweden's Parliament in 1926, with the Swedish archaeologist Johan Gunnar Andersson as founding director. The museum was originally based mainly on Andersson's groundbreaking discoveries in China, during the...

 in Stockholm, Sweden (in Swedish: Östasiatiska museet), a national museum established to house the Swedish part of the collections from these first-ever scientific archaeological excavations in China. Andersson served as the director of the MFEA until he was succeeded in 1939 by the famous Swedish Sinologist Bernhard Karlgren
Bernhard Karlgren
Klas Bernhard Johannes Karlgren was a Swedish sinologist and linguist who pioneered the study of Chinese historical phonology using modern comparative methods...

.

Selections of the Swedish portion of the materials is on display at the MFEA in a new permanent exhibit launched 2004. The Chinese part of the Andersson collections, according to a bilateral Sino-Swedish agreement, was returned by him to the Chinese government in seven shipments, 1927-1936. The first shipments were sent by Andersson to Peking, and the last ones to Nanjing, which had become the new capital of China. An exhibit with these objects was mounted at the new National Geological Survey complex in Nanjing
Nanjing
' is the capital of Jiangsu province in China and has a prominent place in Chinese history and culture, having been the capital of China on several occasions...

, where Andersson saw them in 1937, the last time they were reported seen by anyone. The last documentary evidence of these objects was a 1948 Visitors Guide to the Geological Survey museum in Nanjing, which listed Andersson's Yangshao
Yangshao culture
The Yangshao culture was a Neolithic culture that existed extensively along the central Yellow River in China. The Yangshao culture is dated from around 5000 BC to 3000 BC. The culture is named after Yangshao, the first excavated representative village of this culture, which was discovered in 1921...

 artefacts among the exhibits.

The objects were long thought to be irretrievably lost in the civil war
Chinese Civil War
The Chinese Civil War was a civil war fought between the Kuomintang , the governing party of the Republic of China, and the Communist Party of China , for the control of China which eventually led to China's division into two Chinas, Republic of China and People's Republic of...

 that followed, until 2002. After major renovations at the Geological Museum of China
Geological Museum of China
The Geological Museum of China , built in 1916, is a geological museum, boasting 200 thousand specimens.This museum is located in the Xisi area of Beijing and opened on October 1, 1959. It is the earliest geological scientific museum of China....

, the successor to the Geological Survey's museum, staff found three crates of ceramic vessels and fragments while re-organising items in storage. Following contact with the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities
Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities
The Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities , Stockholm, Sweden. Is a public museum launched by Sweden's Parliament in 1926, with the Swedish archaeologist Johan Gunnar Andersson as founding director. The museum was originally based mainly on Andersson's groundbreaking discoveries in China, during the...

 (Östasiatiska Museet) in Stockholm
Stockholm
Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of Sweden and constitutes the most populated urban area in Scandinavia. Stockholm is the most populous city in Sweden, with a population of 851,155 in the municipality , 1.37 million in the urban area , and around 2.1 million in the metropolitan area...

, it was confirmed that these were indeed left from Andersson's excavations. In 2006, these objects featured in an exhibition at the Geological Museum on the occasion of its 90th anniversary, celebrating the lives and work of Andersson and its other founders. In 2007, the Geological Museum of China
Geological Museum of China
The Geological Museum of China , built in 1916, is a geological museum, boasting 200 thousand specimens.This museum is located in the Xisi area of Beijing and opened on October 1, 1959. It is the earliest geological scientific museum of China....

 published a documentary film (see review and discussion in Fiskesjö 2010).

Still, as of 2010, the vast majority of the objects returned to China by Andersson remain lost. This includes a spectacular and unique human-faced ceramic shaman head (see illustration in Fiskesjö and Chen 2004, repeated in Fiskesjö 2010), and numerous spectacular painted ceramic vessels. Even though similar such ceramics have been excavated since Andersson's time by Chinese archaeologists, these lost collections hold a special interest and value since they derive from the first scientific archaeological excavations in China. It is possible they remain in Nanjing, but despite investigations by several competent parties (Andersson's sending lists have been copied by the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities to major institutions for cultural heritage and archaeology in China), they have not been relocated, and their whereabouts remains unknown.

External links