Central Java

Sangiran Museum

The Homeland of Java Man

Love Engine | Tuesday, 03 February 2015 - 16:39:53 WIB | be read: 4468 reader

Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) spawned a new generation of naturalists in the 19th century, and his theories sparked acrimonious debate across the world. Ernst Haeckel’s The History of Natural Creation (1874) expounded Darwin’s theory of evolution and surmised that primitive humans had evolved from a common ape-man ancestor, the famous ‘missing link’.
One student of the new theories, Dutch physician Eugene Dubois, went to Java in 1889 after hearing of the uncovering of a skull at Wajak, near Tulung Agung in East Java. Dubois worked at the dig, uncovering other fossils closely related to modern humans. In 1891 at Trinil in East Java’s Ngawi district, Dubois unearthed an older skullcap, along with a femur and three teeth he later classified as originating from Pithecanthropus erectus, a low-browed, prominent-jawed early human ancestor, dating from the Middle Pleistocene epoch. His published findings of ‘Java Man’ caused such a storm in Europe that Dubois even reburied his discovery for 30 years.
Since Dubois’ findings, many older examples of Homo erectus (the name subsequently given to Pithecanthropus erectus) have been uncovered in Java. The most important and most numerous findings have been at Sangiran, where in the 1930s Ralph von Koenigswald found fossils dating back to around one million BC; in 1936, at Perning near Mojokerto, the skull of a child was discovered and was purported to be even older. Most findings have been along Sungai Bengawan Solo in Central and East Java.
Geochronologists have now dated the bones of Java’s oldest Homo erectus specimens at 1.7 million years, but also postulate that the youngest fossils may be less than 40,000 years old. Thisn means that Homo erectus existed in Java at the same time as Homo sapiens, who arrived on the island some 60,000 years ago, and reignites the debate about whether humankind evolved in Africa and migrated from there, or whether humans evolved on several continents concurrently.
Those interested in learning more should pick up a copy of Carl Swisher, Garniss Curtis and Roger Lewin’s extremely readable book Java Man.

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