In 1936, Ralph von Koenigswald announced the discovery of a fossil cranium from a very young child outside the village of Perning, near the city of Surabaya, in East Java. Unlike most of the fossil hominids from Java, the cranium of Modjokerto reportedly was recovered in situ. Recent dating of the specimen, using the new 40Ar/39Ar dating method, places Modjokerto at 1.81 million years ago. This is puzzling given that the earliest Homo erectus from Africa are placed roughly at the same date.
Assuming that early hominid skulls matured at the same rate as modern humans, the cranium of Modjokerto is that of a 4- to 6-year-old. It is nearly complete but is missing most of the face and parts of the base. It has a very small cranial capacity of approximately 650 cubic centimeters. If the child had survived into adulthood, the brain case would have grown to approximately 700 to 750 cubic centimeters. Based on the immature physical characteristics, von Koenigswald initially considered this specimen to be a new species that he named Homo modjokertensis, whereas Cora DuBois regarded it as a youthful representative of Ngandong Man.
Given its young age, the anatomical characteristics that would positively identify the species of the Modjokerto child had not yet developed. However, some beginnings of a H. erectus cranium can be seen, including a small but projecting brow ridge, strong postorbital constriction, nucal torus, angled occiput (between the occipital and nuchal planes), and spongy bone development at the cranial base. Most of these features can be found on the juvenile H. erectus specimen (WT 15000) from East Africa.
If the date of 1.81 million years ago is correct, the Modjokerto child is the oldest hominid that has been found so far in Asia. Given the very early date and the lack of distinct morphological features, this cranium could be from an earlier hominid.
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