Last appearance of Homo erectus at Ngandong, Java, 117,000–108,000 years ago

Bibliographic Collection: 
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Rizal, Yan; Westaway, Kira E.; Zaim, Yahdi; van den Bergh, Gerrit D.; Bettis, E. Arthur; Morwood, Michael J.; Huffman, O. Frank; Grün, Rainer; Joannes-Boyau, Renaud; Bailey, Richard M.; Sidarto; Westaway, Michael C.; Kurniawan, Iwan; Moore, Mark W.; Storey, Michael; Aziz, Fachroel; Suminto; Zhao, Jian-xin; Aswan; Sipola, Maija E.; Larick, Roy; Zonneveld, John-Paul; Scott, Robert; Putt, Shelby; Ciochon, Russell L.
Year of Publication: 2019
Date Published: 2019/12/18
Publication Language: eng
ISBN Number: 1476-4687

Homo erectus is the founding early hominin species of Island Southeast Asia, and reached Java (Indonesia) more than 1.5 million years ago1,2. Twelve H. erectus calvaria (skull caps) and two tibiae (lower leg bones) were discovered from a bone bed located about 20 m above the Solo River at Ngandong (Central Java) between 1931 and 19333,4, and are of the youngest, most-advanced form of H. erectus5–8. Despite the importance of the Ngandong fossils, the relationship between the fossils, terrace fill and ages have been heavily debated9–14. Here, to resolve the age of the Ngandong evidence, we use Bayesian modelling of 52 radiometric age estimates to establish—to our knowledge—the first robust chronology at regional, valley and local scales. We used uranium-series dating of speleothems to constrain regional landscape evolution; luminescence, 40argon/39argon (40Ar/39Ar) and uranium-series dating to constrain the sequence of terrace evolution; and applied uranium-series and uranium series–electron-spin resonance (US–ESR) dating to non-human fossils to directly date our re-excavation of Ngandong5,15. We show that at least by 500 thousand years ago (ka) the Solo River was diverted into the Kendeng Hills, and that it formed the Solo terrace sequence between 316 and 31 ka and the Ngandong terrace between about 140 and 92 ka. Non-human fossils recovered during the re-excavation of Ngandong date to between 109 and 106 ka (uranium-series minimum)16 and 134 and 118 ka (US–ESR), with modelled ages of 117 to 108 thousand years (kyr) for the H. erectus bone bed, which accumulated during flood conditions3,17. These results negate the extreme ages that have been proposed for the site and solidify Ngandong as the last known occurrence of this long-lived species.

Short Title: Nature