Sangiran Paleontological Site (World Heritage)

According to constructmaterials, the excavation area is in central Java. There, near Sangiran, some of the oldest fossils of the genus Homo outside of Africa were discovered in the 1920s and 1930s. They are between 800,000 and 1.5 million years old and are assigned to Homo erectus. Populations of Homo erectus left Africa around 1.8 million years ago and spread around the world.

Sangiran Paleontological Site: Facts

Official title: Sangiran paleontological site
Cultural monument: Archaeological site with fossils of Pithecanthropus erectus, now classified as Homo erectus
Continent: Asia
Country: Indonesia, Central Java
Location: Sangiran, north of Surakarta
Appointment: 1996
Meaning: an archaeological site of great importance for understanding human development

Sangiran Paleontological Site: History

1.8 million – 700,000 years ago so-called “Java man” (Homo erectus)
1859 Publication of the work “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection” by Charles Darwin
1863 Publication of the work “Evidence as to Man’s Place in Nature” by Thomas H. Huxley
1890 A fossil skullcap found in deposits of the Solo River near Trinil by Eugène Dubois (1858-1940)
1891 Another find of remains of Homo erectus (Pithecanthropus I) by Dubois near Trinil
1936 Find of an estimated age of up to 1.8 million years of a 6-year-old girl
1937 Gustav Heinrich Ralph von Koenigswald found fragments of the skull of a Homo erectus (Pithecanthropus II) in Sangiran
1952-72 further excavations and bone finds, including Find »Sangiran 17« (today in the Frankfurt Senckenberg Museum)

Walking upright

Where do we come from? Probably no other question moves people more than that of their own origin. The creation myths gave answers for millennia. The Egyptians once believed that people (“erme”) were created through metamorphosis from the tears (“erme”) of the sun, while according to the Genesis of the Old Testament, Yahweh first formed Adam from clay and then created Eve from his rib – whereby the veil of mystery over the Judeo-Christian myth is lifted a little by the fact that the words “rib” and “life” in Sumerian are represented by the same ideogram and, moreover, are pronounced identically as “ti” or “til”.

The theory of evolution has robbed the creation myths of their value as explanatory models: The image of man and his position in nature changed radically after Charles Darwin in his treatise on “The Descent of Man and Sexual Selection” (German 1871) that of Thomas H. Huxley had confirmed the thesis put forward in 1863 that the genus Homo, human beings, belong together with great apes, monkeys and semi-monkeys to the order of the primates, the master animals.

Two decades after the appearance of Darwin’s work, the Dutch military doctor Eugène Dubois discovered the remains of a brain shell and a femur of archanthropins (early humans) near Trinil, a village on the banks of the Solo River in Central Java. It was the first discovery of the species Homo erectus, called Pithecanthropus erectus by Dubois, which some paleontologists initially believed to be the direct predecessor of Homo sapiens.

The fossils found near Trinil as well as those later upstream near the village of Sangiran show that this Java man, now systematized as Homo erectus erectus, already walked upright like modern humans, reached a height of about 1.72 meters and an average one Possessed brain volume of 900 cubic centimeters.

Not far from the site from 1891, around 100,000 year old bones of the subspecies Homo erectus soloensis were discovered four decades later near Ngandong. The condition of these remains of about a dozen skulls from the Upper Pleistocene suggests headhunting and cannibalism. Between 1936 and 1941, a team led by the Berlin paleontologist and primate researcher Gustav Heinrich Ralph von Koenigswald made further finds of this type.

The remains of Homo erectus modjokertensis found near Mojokerto – southwest of Surabaya – and also near Sangiran are much older, around 1.8 million years old. This is a much smaller and more primitive subspecies similar to Homo habilis with a skull capacity of only 750 cubic centimeters. Among the Mojokerto finds, the skull of a child who died around the age of six deserves a special mention. It has large bulges above the eyes and a receding forehead. Thigh findings also belonging to this form prove the bipedia, the upright gait, also of this relatively small-brained early man. One thing is certain: representatives of Homo erectus lived on Java as early as in East Africa.

The area around the Sangiran archaeological site is rich in human and animal fossils, often on the surface after heavy rains. This is due to the fact that the soft, calcareous sedimentary soil has risen over the course of the earth’s history to form a dome – called the “Sangiran Dome” – which has now eroded and exposed deeper layers.

Fossils such as those discovered at Sangiran and other sites have greatly expanded our knowledge of the evolution of the human species. But they do not solve the riddle of our origins. Charles Robert Darwin, who turned from a devout Christian to an agnostic through his research, already knew: “We cannot explain the mystery of the beginning of all things.”

Sangiran Paleontological Site (World Heritage)