Ngandong is an archaeological site located on the High Terrace deposits near the Solo River in eastern Java, Indonesia, that includes remains of early Homo sapiens. Excavations of the site were conducted between 1931 and 1933 by Eugene Dubois.
Originally called Homo solonesis, or “Solo Man,” the remains were thought to belong to a more advanced population than Homo erectus. Remains found at the site include 13 skull caps. Of the 13 crania or cranial fragments, nine are adults or at least fully grown, and one is clearly a child. Additional finds include two fragmentary tibia bones. These indicate that one individual was 167 cm and the other 188 cm tall, which is larger than other finds of early Homo sapiens in Indonesia. The general impression of the Ngandong hominids is that they were a very powerful and muscular people. This is indicated by the bony evidence of muscle attachments, as well as in the form and thickness of the bones themselves. The specimens were not intentionally buried, and there are no archaeological associations found directly with these remains. Healed cranium wounds were common in the Ngandong specimens and are found more on presumed female than male crania.
Most of the crania were faceless and/or baseless, and it is uncertain whether this was the result of ritual treatment of the dead, taphonomical factors, or perhaps preferences of those who collected the specimens. Some even suggested that they were used as water bowls. The most probable explanation, however, is that the face and base contain the most fragile bones of the skull, and either the action of carnivores or natural damage through the process of fossilization led to the destruction of these parts.
Found near the broken crania was a fossil bed of 23,000 mammalian bones, mostly of extinct elephants, oxen, and hippos. Along with the mammal remains, an assortment of scrapers, borers, choppers, and stone balls for use as slings was found. Evidence that these early H. sapiens had social organization and used simple tools is supported by these findings.
Previously, it was thought that the Ngandong remains dated to about 100,000-250,000 years ago. But recently, teams have reexamined the Ngandong excavations using electron spin resonance and mass spectrometric uranium-series techniques to reach a date as recent as 43,000-27,000 years ago.
The Ngandong hominids are considered by most authorities to be ancestral to modern Australian Aborigines. The date of the earliest hominids in it is in dispute, but most authorities would agree that Australia has been occupied by humans for at least the past 120,000 years. If this is the case, then the Ngandong population cannot be ancestral to the Australian Aborigines.
- Lewin, R. (2004). Principles of human evolution. Victoria, Australia: Basil Blackwell.
- Shipman, P. (2001). The man who found the missing link. New York: Simon and Schuster.
- Swisher, C., Curtis, G. H., & Lewin, R. (2000). Java man: How two geologists’ dramatic discoveries changed our understanding of the evolutionary path to modern humans. New York: Scribner.
- Tyler, D. E. (1995). The current picture of hominid evolution in Java. Acta Anthropologica Sinica, 14, 313-323.
- Wolpoff, M. (1999). Paleoanthropology .New York: McGraw-Hill.