Kamis, 19 April 2012

Sangiran Homeland of Java Man

Sangiran awfully fantastic homeland of Java Man located in Central Java Province of Indonesia is one of the key sites for the study of human evolution. Sangiran is a rural area located at the foot of Mount Lawu, precisely in the depression Solo about 17 km to the north of the city of Solo, and is administratively located in the district of Sragen and partly located in Karanganyar district, Central Java Province. Its area is 56 Km2 covering three districts in the Sragen district.

Follow the history of Java Man and the story of his discovery at the small Sangiran Museum. At the museum, learn about how prehistoric men might have lived millennia ago. The fossil shells and animal bones which are on display here range between 1.2 million and 500,000 years old. Also on display is an enormous 4-meter tusks from a stegodon which is estimated to have measured a staggering 11 meters from head to tail!
At the Sangiran museum you can see replicas of the original Java man fossils. Learn just how homo erectus was different from modern man. 

The geological stratigraphy of the Sangiran area covers 2 million years, from the late Pliocene to the recent periods. The Lower and Middle Pleistocene Ievels have produced considerable fossil and artefactual material. Fifty early human fossils (Pithecanthropus erectus/Homo erectus ) have been found, representing 50% of all the known hominid fossils in the world, together with numerous animal and floral fossils such as rhinoceros, elephant ivory, buffalo horn, deer horn and many others.

The story of Java Man begins over a century ago. In 1890, a Dutch military physician and paleontologist Eugene Dubois discovered a fossilized primate jawbone at Trinil further east down the Solo river. This jawbone possessed distinctly human characteristics. Dubois was convinced that this was Darwin’s “missing link” in the evolution of man but lacked the evidence to prove his theory.
Nearly 50 years later, Berlin born paleontologist G H R Von Koenigswald, unearthed a fossilized ‘java man’ or homo erectus jawbone in Sangiran. This was a much older fossil, dating back over a million years or more. Dubois was right. Java Man was the proof he had needed that homo erectus existed in Java about as early as in Africa.   
Today, scientists recognize that homo erectus, which inhabited the earth between 1.7 million to 250,000 years ago, are the direct ancestors of homo sapiens (modern human beings).
It’s believed that Java man probably made his home in caves or in open camps and it’s likely that he was the first humanoid that used fire. He also used stone axes and hand-adzes, most of which were discovered by the Baksoka River near Pacitan.

Palaeolithic stone tools (Sangiran flakes) found at Ngebung include flakes, choppers and cleavers in chalcedony and jasper and, more recently, bone tools. The site has also produced Neolithic axes. This evidence indicates that hominids have inhabited the area for at Ieast 1.5 million years. The Palaeolithic tools can be dated to around 800,000 BP, and the sequence of cultural material from this period through to the Neolithic illustrates continuous evolution of man in relation to the ecosystem over a long period.

The geology of the Sangiran Early Man Site is sedimentary in origin, beginning with the late Pliocene. It was deformed into a domed anticline by diaper intrusion. The summit was subsequently eroded by river action, turning it into a recessed, reversed dome. Early hominid fossils occur in successive formations, starting with the Pucangang (0.5-1.5 million years BP), but more particularly in the Kabuh (0.25-0.5 million years BP) and Notopuro (11,000-250,000 years BP). Nowadays, it is an unfertile hill and the region is now entirely devoted to peasant agriculture.
Ever since Von Koenigswald found flake tools in the Ngebung village in 1934, the site has made an immense contribution to the study of evolution over the past million years by illustrating the evolution of Homo erectus. Homo erectus is important to the study of the early history of mankind before the emergence of the modern Homo sapiens . Fossils of Homo erectus have been found from time to time in a site covering 8 km by 7 km since 1936 to the present day.
Not only has the Sangiran site contributed to the understanding of the family tree of mankind, it has also thrown much light the evolution of culture, of animals, and of the ancient environment. Large quantities of human and animal fossils, along with Palaeolithic tools, have been found on the Sangiran site in a geological-stratigraphical series that has been laid down continuously for more than 2 million years.

Around 5 km west of the museum stands a three-storey viewing tower where you can see around the Sangiran valley. While you are here, learn more about Darwin’s theory of evolution through an audio visual presentation.

The highlight of your journey will be a visit to the 48 square km archaeological site. Located by the Bengawan Solo river at the foot of Mt. Lawu, this site is rich in prehistoric fossils, which often lie exposed in the fields after heavy storms. For anyone with an interest in archeology, this is a rare opportunity to see such ancient fossils. 

The Sangiran area is rich in fossils of all types. Along with Indonesia’s temples of Borobudur and Prambanan, Sangiran’s significance means it has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

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