Much of the media attention has focused on how the skull was found. The man who gave the fossil to Ji described how his grandfather originally unearthed it in the 1930s.
As the story goes, the man’s grandfather dug up the artifact while working on a bridge-building project near the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin. Rather than hand it over to the Japanese authorities, who occupied the region at the time, he decided to hide it at the bottom of a well. The skull remained there for 80 years, until the man’s grandfather finally told his family of its existence as he lay on his deathbed. The man then retrieved the skull from the well before contacting Ji — one of China’s most prominent paleontologists — to report his discovery.