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Homo erectus Skull Discovered in Central Java Provides More Evidence for Ancient Hominids in the Area

Homo erectus Skull Discovered in Central Java Provides More Evidence for Ancient Hominids in the Area

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The skull of a Homo erectus has been found in the area near the Bojong River in Manyarejo village, Sragen, Central Java, Indonesia. It is the first discovery of a human fossil in this area in 80 years.

According to The Jakarata Post, the skull was discovered on February 2016 by 56-year-old Manyarejo villager Setu Wiryorejo. The skull is 14 centimeters long (5.51 inches) and 12 cm wide (4.72 inches), with a height of about 10 cm (3.94 inches). Its volume is approximately 800 cubic centimeters - smaller than the skull of Homo sapiens, which is usually around 1,400 cubic centimeters. It is a very special discovery, because most of the fossils discovered in this area are from plants and animals.

The researchers from Sangiran Museum's paleoanthropology team, who examined the skull, believe that it is a very precious and rare artifact. The first and (before this) only skull of Homo erectus discovered in this part of the world, was found in 1936, by Gustav Heinrich Ralph von Koenigswald, a paleontology expert from Berlin, Germany.

Dr. G.H.R. von Koenigswald studying fossils from Java c. 1938.

Dr. G.H.R. von Koenigswald studying fossils from Java c. 1938. (Tropenmuseum, part of the National Museum of World Cultures/ CC BY SA 3.0)

Sukronedi, the head of the Ancient Human Site Conservation Agency (BPSMP) Sangiran said that the archaic skull fossil will enrich the collection of around 100 ancient human skulls in the museum’s collection. It will be one of two fossils of Homo erectus. The man who discovered the fossil was awarded with a cash prize and a certificate. The gratitude of the researchers and the officials also led to the decision to put his name on the glass box where the skull will be displayed.

As Sukronedi told The Jakarta Post: ''No progressive Homo erectus fossils have ever been found in Sangiran. They have only been found in Sambungmacan [Sragen] and Ngandong [Blora]. We have prepared compensation from Rp 300,000 [US$22.71] to tens of millions of rupiah, depending on how important the fossil discovery is. We are preparing Rp 25 million for the discoverer of this archaic Homo erectus skull.''

The fossils of Homo erectus are grouped into three types: archaic, typical and progressive. The Archaic Homo erectus are the oldest of the species, and lived around 1.5 million to 1 million years ago. Typical Homo erectus lived in the period from 800,000 to 300,000 BC, while progressive Homo Erectus lived from 300,000 to 100,000 years BC.

Homo erectus skull, Museum of Natural History, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.

Homo erectus skull, Museum of Natural History, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. (CC BY SA 2.0)

Setu didn't know the importance of his discovery when he first found the skull. He thought that he had just found a very old animal skull. Working as a cane farmer, he often finds fossils and delivers them to local archaeologists. Until now, he has discovered dozens of precious fossils, including some from turtles and elephants, which are a part of a local exhibition too.

The local researchers are impressed with his honesty. Setu has never sold any fossils from the Sangiran site, which is one of five of the most important sources of fossils worldwide. Setu and other locals who bring the fossils to the museum strongly support the research on the oldest evidence of life on Earth.

The Sangiran Museum houses the fossils from the Sangiran dome archaeological site, which covers over 56 hectares of Gemolong, Kalijambe, Gondangrejo district in Karanganyar regency, and Plupuh district in Sragen regency. Along with the sites of Willandra Lakes (Australia), Sterkfontein (South Africa), Zhoukoudian (China), and the Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania), it is one of the centers for fossil research.

On November 29, 2014 Ancient Origins reported that the new dating of Homo erectus skulls reclassifies Lantian Man as the oldest known hominin in northeast Asia. Lantian Man is said to be a subspecies of Homo erectus whose fossils were found in Lantian County, Shaanxi Province in China in 1963.

Lantian Man were originally dated to 1.15 million years. However, the new age of Lantian Man was obtained through highly detailed research carried out over 12 years (2001 – 2013), which utilized the latest methods including: loess-palaeosol stratigraphy, tectonic-geomorphology, sedimentology and mineralogy, geochemistry, palaeontology, paleomagnetism, and rock magnetic methods.

Lantian Man, Reconstruction, Shaanxi History Museum, Xian, China.

Lantian Man, Reconstruction, Shaanxi History Museum, Xian, China. (Public Domain)

According to the researchers, the new dating of Lantian Man suggests that Homo erectus moved eastwards in a warm period that occurred just after 1.75 million years ago. They may also have followed southern routes from Africa into Asia, as evidenced by the presence of fossils in Indonesia that are only slightly younger (c 1.5 – 1.6 million years).

On November 2015, a group of researchers from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) led by Lu Wu discovered an uncommonly well preserved skull of Homo erectus, dated to 150,000 - 412,000 years old. The Tech Times said that the fossil was named ''Dongzhi Man'', and was unearthed in east China at the Hualongdong. The skull was discovered between stone dulls, bones of human and animals, and teeth. The animals were recognized as giant tapir, giant pandas, and stegodon.

Featured Image: An archaic Homo erectus skull (left) is displayed alongside a Homo sapien skull after being discovered near the Bojong River in Plupuh, Sragen, Central Java, in February. Source: Nugroho Adi

By Natalia Klimczak



Natalia Klimczak is an historian, journalist and writer and is currently a Ph.D. Candidate at the Faculty of Languages, University of Gdansk. Natalia does research in Narratology, Historiography, History of Galicia (Spain) and Ancient History of Egypt, Rome and Celts. She... Read More

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