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

Yan Rizal, Kira E. Westaway*, Yahdi Zaim, Gerrit D. van den Bergh, E. Arthur Bettis, Michael J. Morwood, O. Frank Huffman, Rainer Grün, Renaud Joannes-Boyau, Richard M. Bailey, Sidarto, Michael C. Westaway, Iwan Kurniawan, Mark W. Moore, Michael Storey, Fachroel Aziz, Suminto, Jian-xin Zhao, Aswan, Maija E. SipolaRoy Larick, John-Paul Zonneveld, Robert Scott, Shelby Putt, Russell L. Ciochon

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    88 Citations (Scopus)


    Homo erectus is the founding early hominin species of Island Southeast Asia, and reached Java (Indonesia) more than 1.5 million years ago(1,2). 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 1933(3,4), and are of the youngest, most-advanced form of H. erectus(5-8). Despite the importance of the Ngandong fossils, the relationship between the fossils, terrace fill and ages have been heavily debated(9-14). Here, to resolve the age of the Ngandong evidence, we use Bayesian modelling of 52 radiometric age estimates to establish-to our knowledg-the first robust chronology at regional, valley and local scales. We used uranium-series dating of speleothems to constrain regional landscape evolution; luminescence, (40)argon/(39)argon (Ar-40/Ar-39) 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 Ngandong(5,15). 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 conditions(3,17). 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.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)381-385
    Number of pages26
    Issue number7790
    Early online date18 Dec 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 16 Jan 2020


    • Animals
    • Biological Evolution
    • Fossils
    • Hominidae
    • Indonesia
    • Leg Bones
    • Skull
    • Time Factors


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