Original Published Date: 
Thursday, December 19, 2019

Full article issued by Macquarie University.

New dating of a river terrace location in Central Java called Ngandong by ARC-supported researchers has finally established the true age for an important site in the story of human evolution. This site on the banks of the Solo river, discovered in 1931-33, contained twelve Homo erectus skull caps and two lower leg bones. These fossils are the youngest, most advanced form of the human species, and represent an important evolutionary change. Until now the nature of the burial sediments has made precisely dating the evidence difficult.

But 90 years after the remains were discovered, a new suite of analyses, generating 52 new ages for the Ngandong evidence, has confirmed that Homo erectus went extinct in the middle of the last interglacial phase, when warmer rain forested environments were widespread. This research, published in Nature, has wide implications for the complex story of human evolution in this region, and helps to establish the time in which Homo erectus occupied east Java, who they interacted with, and—potentially—why they went extinct.

Photo credit: 

Excavations underway at Ngandong in 2010. Excavations are underway in pits H10a (foreground) and H10c (being dug) in 2010. Credit: Russell L. Ciochon, University of Iowa.