7 Early Humans Found in Indonesia – Early humans were humans who lived in the prehistoric era, when writing had not yet been discovered. How to know human life in that era? At least, there are two ways to find out about human life in prehistoric times.
First, namely through the remains of humans, plants and animals that have been petrified or what are referred to as fossils. Second, through relics as a result of human culture at that time, for example household appliances, buildings, artifacts, jewelry, weapons, and ancient human fossils that have been found.
Early humans are thought to have lived during the Pleistocene era. The Pleistocene is the era that lasted 2,580,000 to 11,700 years ago. The Pleistocene era is further divided into three, namely early Pleistocene (lower layer), middle Pleistocene, and late Pleistocene (upper layer).
The researchers found various human fossils that lived in each of these periods. There are several types of early humans found in Indonesia. Ancient humans found in Indonesia are often referred to as Java man or Javanese man.
Early Man in Indonesia
Early human life spread across various regions, including Indonesia. Fossils from ancient times are found in the archipelago. The fossils include the skull, body and legs. Skull fossils and cranium capacity can show the thinking ability of humans at that time compared to modern humans. This also applies to the shape of the jawbone, arms and legs which can be compared with the shape of the bones of modern humans or with apes.
From various studies it is known that ancient humans have differences with today’s modern humans. However, for certain types of early humans there are those who have a higher level of intelligence than apes.
At least, there are several ancient human fossils found in Indonesia. Here’s the review.
1. Meganthropus palaeojavanicus
The fossilized mandibular bone of Meganthropus palaeojavanicus was discovered by a German-Dutch researcher named Gustav Heinrich Ralph von Koenigswald in 1941 near Sangiran Village, Bengawan Solo River Valley. Meganthropus found by von Koeningswald comes from the early Pleistocene (lower layer). Meganthropus or often referred to as Sangiran Man is the oldest ancient human found in Indonesia.
The characteristics of this ancient human are having a large body, prominent forehead, and thick cheekbones. The jaws and teeth are large. Roughly about the same size as a gorilla’s jaw. Based on the age of the soil layer where the discovery was made, it is estimated that the fossils found were 1,000,000–2,000,000 years old. Meganthropus is thought to live by food gathering (gathering food). The main food is plants. Because they don’t know fire.
The following are the characteristics of Meganthropus :
- Well-built with a sharp protrusion on the back of the head;
- Thick cheekbones with a prominent forehead;
- Chewing muscles, teeth and jaws are large and strong.
In the human genus, this species is named Meganthropus paleojavanicus , which means the oldest large human originating from Java. Mega means big, anthropus means human, palaeo means old, and javanicus means Java. However, many experts later classify it as Homo erectus paleojavanicus s.
2. Pithecanthropus mojokertensis
Other ancient human species also found in Indonesia are Pithecanthropus robustus and Pithecanthropus mojokertensis . This ancient human was discovered by Tjokrohandojo or Andojo who worked under Ralph von Koenigswald in 1936 in the Brantas River Valley. This ancient human is a generation younger than Meganthropus palaeojavanicus . This ancient human type is considered ape-like, so it is called pithe which means monkey.
Andojo initially thought the skull belonged to an orangutan, so he was named Pithecanthropus or ape man. However, von Koeningswald recognized the fossil as an ancient human skull. The fossil is from the early Pleistocene (lower layer) and is named Pithecanthropus mojokertensis . This type is the oldest Pithecanthropus .
Based on the age of the soil layers, namely the lower and middle layers, it is estimated that Pithecanthropus lived between 30,000 and 2,000,000 years ago. Pithecanthropus live in groups and hunt and food gathering (hunting, fishing and gathering food).
Pithecanthropus already uses tools to find food. The tools are very simple, namely stone or wood found. Some examples of stone tools used by Pithecanthropus are hand axes, chopping axes, and scraping axes. These tools can be found in Pacitan Regency, East Java Province. Even though they have used tools, they have not processed or cooked food.
This controversial discovery raises debate about the classification of early humans. Von Koeningswald also changed the species name from Pithecanthropus mojokertensis to Homo mojokertensis .
Following are the characteristics of Pithecanthropus mojokertensis :
- Straight-bodied, but not as straight as Meganthropus;
- He is about 165–180 centimeters tall;
- The jawbones and molars are strong;
- The forehead protrudes;
- The nose is wide and chinless;
- Brain volume is not perfect, its capacity is only 750-1300 cc;
- The bones of the roof of the skull are thick and oval in shape;
- The chewing organs and nape muscles have shrunk;
- Chewing muscles are not as strong as Meganthropus ;
- The food is still rough or raw with little processing;
- The food varies, namely plants and game meat.
3. Pithecanthropus erectus
This pre-literate human group was discovered by Eugene Dubosi in 1890–1892 in Trinil Village, Ngawi Regency, East Java Province. Pithecanthropus erectus is known to have lived around 1 million to 600,000 years ago. Based on Dubosi’s findings, the characteristics of this early human can be identified, namely:
- Well-built with strong chewing apparatus;
- Height ranges from 165–170 centimeters with a body weight of around 100 kilograms;
- walk upright;
- The food is still rough with little processing;
- Having low thinking ability;
- The brain volume of the head is still 900 cc, while the brain volume of modern humans is more than 1000 cc and the highest ape brain volume is only 600 cc.
4. Homo erectus soloensis
Another early human found in Indonesia is Homo soloensis . As the name suggests, these early human fossils were discovered along the Bengawan Solo (Ngandong, Kontakmacan, and Sangiran) by C. Ter Haar, Gustav Heinrich Ralph von Koenigswald, and WFF Oppernoort in 1931–1933. Homo soloensis is thought to have lived from 900,000 to 200,000 years ago.
Von Koenigswald found many fossils and prehistoric artifacts in the area, including children’s skulls, mammals and various tools. He then divided the Bengawan Solo valley into three layers, namely:
- Jetis Layer (Lower Pleistocene), where Pithecanthropus robustus , Homo mojokertensis , and Meganthropus paleojavanicus were found ;
- The Trinil layer (Middle Pleistocene), where Pithecanthropus erectus was found ;
- The Ngandong layer (Upper Pleistocene), where Homo soloensis and Homo wajakensis were found.
For Homo e. soloensis , von Koenigswald found 11 fossil skulls. Some of them have been destroyed, but there are some that are still worthy of being the object of further research, even though the jaw bones and teeth of the eleventh skull are gone.
According to von Koenigswald and R. Weidenreich, these early humans had a higher level than Pithecanthropus erectus . They even deserve to be called homo (human). It is estimated, this creature is the evolution of Pithecanthropus mojokertensis or Homo mojokertensis .
5. Homo wajakensis
Meanwhile, Homo wajakensis was discovered by Von Rietschoten in Wajak Village in 1888 and Eugene Dubois in 1889. These early humans lived around 60,000 to 25,00 years ago. Wajak Man is thought to be the ancestor of the indigenous people of Australia (Aborigines). These two types of ancient humans are called homo because they have similarities with today’s modern humans. His brain volume has also grown, even reaching 1300 cc.
The fossils found were femur, maxilla, mandible, tibia, and skull fragments with a volume of around 1,600 cc. Rietschoten’s findings are classified as the first Homo sapiens in Asia. The fossil was then examined by Eugene Dubois.
In a study it was stated that these early humans were able to make tools from stone and bone. Not only that, Homo wajakensis is also known to know how to cook.
From a physical perspective, the characteristics of Homo sapiens are as follows:
- Flat and wide face;
- Wide nose with protruding mouthparts;
- Body weight around 30–150 kilograms;
- Height approximately 130–210 centimeters;
- The brain is already more developed;
The skull of Homo wajakensis is known to have similarities with the skull of Aborigines in Australia, so E. Dubois estimates that this type of Homo sapiens is grouped into modern humans who belong to the Australoid race. Fossils from Homo wajakensis have similarities with Niah humans in Sarawak (Malaysia) and Tabon humans in Palawan (Philippines).
Talking about Homo wajakensis , we will always be reminded of Eugene Dubois, a doctor from the Netherlands who had a strong desire to come to the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) to prove or seek evidence for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution as stated in his book entitled The Origin . Of Species , even though at that time it was still full of academic polemics.
By registering as a Dutch soldier for medical personnel, with his wife and children, Dubois was finally sent
to Sumatra. Dubois always found time to carry out his “main mission”, which was to look for fossils and the remains of human ancestors during his time as a Dutch army doctor.
Unfortunately, the Sumatra expedition apparently had not been successful and he turned his attention to Java. This was also triggered by information regarding the discovery of fossilized human bones in Campurdarat Village, Tulungagung Regency, which later became known as the Wajak I fossil. Based on this data, Dubois conducted excavations around the location where the Wajak I fossil was found and succeeded in finding the Wajak II human fossil.
In addition to the bones from Campurdarat above, Eugene Dubois’ important findings during his research in Java were several hominid bone fossils which he confirmed were human ancestor creatures that had been sought after by followers of Darwin’s theory of evolution. The finding of a hominid species called Pithecanthropus erectus which was later called Homo erectus is the missing link that he managed to find in Trinil, Madiun, East Java, not far from the Bengawan Solo stream.
The findings that shocked the world of science in question were the hominid cranium, femur and teeth fossils which were confirmed to be from the same individual. As an anatomist, Dubois succeeded in reconstructing it and concluded that the cranium, teeth and femur belonged to a hominid that had walked upright, although the facial shape resembled that of an ape. The publication stated that the hominid was an ape-man creature that walked upright.
Teuku Jacob in his research entitled Evolution of Man in Southeast Asia (1977) explains that Wajak humans, who are classified by Dubois as proto-Australoid, are the result of a mixture of the Australomelanesid and the Mongoloid races. Although the absolute dating of the Wajak human fossils has not yet been found, if we refer to Teuku Jacob’s statement, it can also be concluded that the arrival of the Mongoloid race in Java approximately took place at least 10,000 years ago.
This is in accordance with the results of the C-14 dating analysis of the Wajak fauna fossils. Meanwhile, based on the stratigraphic position of the site, it is known relatively that the Wajak man is estimated to have existed between 40,000–25,000 years ago.
Remains of the Australomelanesid Wajak Man are still found in Australia. This is why the sample used for research is the Melanesian archipelago, an area in the Pacific which is close to the Australian continent. The Melanesian Archipelago includes several island groups, namely Papua New Guinea, New Britain, the Bismarck Archipelago, the Island of New Ireland, the Solomon Islands, the Fiji Islands, and other small islands totaling around 341 clusters.
The division of the territory between Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia is based on cultural or cultural characteristics. Culturally, among the three regions, Melanesia is the closest to Indonesia. Therefore, in studying Melanesian prehistory, we will not be separated from the context of the process of migration of peoples who currently inhabit several areas such as Southeast Asia, Oceania, and Australia.
6. Homo mojokertensis
The next ancient human found in Indonesia is Homo mojokertensis . This human group was discovered by Ralph von Koenigswald in 1936 in Mojokerto. The fossils found are the skulls of children under the age of five. This early human discoverer estimates the Homo mojokertensis fossils to be those of Pithecanthropus children .
7. Homo floresiensis (Liang Bua Man)
Homo floresiensis was discovered by Peter Brown and Mike J. Morwood in September 2003. Liang Bua Man was considered the discovery of a new species which was then named after the place where it was found, namely in Liang Bua, Flores.
The characteristics of Homo sapiens found in Flores are as follows:
- The head and body are small;
- Brain size is also small;
- Brain volume of about 380 cc;
- Jaws protruding or narrow forehead;
- Body weight about 25 kilograms;
- Height about 1.06 meters.
The grouping of Homo floresensis as modern humans is still being debated by many experts. Some conclude that this type is the result of the evolution of Pithecanthropus, but other experts suspect that Homo floresensis coexisted or even lived in the same era with Homo sapiens .
This ancient human resembles the hobbit, the human race created by JRR Tolkien in The Lord of the Ring and The Hobbit films . Scientists suspect that Homo floresiensis was a dwarf due to environmental influences. Their position that was confined to the island of Flores for thousands of years made their descendants smaller and smaller.
So, that’s a brief explanation of ancient humans found in Indonesia. Through the explanation above, it can be seen if early humans had differences from modern humans today. However, for certain types of early humans there are those who have a higher level of intelligence than apes.
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