Smith, Fred H.
M.A. (Master of Arts)
Department of Anthropology
Human remains (Archaeology)--Indonesia--Jawa Tengah; Skull base; Prehistoric peoples--Indonesia--Jawa Tengah
The site of Ngandong along the Solo River in Central Java is one of the most important fossil localities outside of Africa. During a three-year period of excavations in the 1930s, the remains of 11-12 hominids were recovered from this site, including two specimens with complete cranial bases. Early analyses of these fossils allied them with European Neandertals, but later work recognized similarities to other Javan Homo erectus specimens. In the 1980s, the fossils became the subject of intense debate concerning the origin of modern humans in the region. Several authorities recognize the fossils as intermediate between earlier Homo erectus specimens and modern Australian Aborigines. Other scientists view the Ngandong assemblage as late surviving examples of Homo erectus that were eventually replaced by modern humans who immigrated to the region from elsewhere. While the cranial vault of the Ngandong specimens has been studied in some detail, the surviving cranial bases in the assemblage have been virtually ignored in the literature. To correct this oversight, the two crania with complete bases, Skulls VI and XI, as well as portions of others, were subjected to a variety of analyses to determine the role the Ngandong people in the evolution of modern humans in Australasia. First, the cranial bases of these specimens were com pared to other fossils widely regarded as Homo erectus in an effort to settle the taxonomic placement of these hominids. Once this was completed, morphological and craniometric analyses were undertaken on the Ngandong fossils, as well as a large sample of modern human crania from Oceania and Africa. A total of 645 modern crania were included in the comparative sample. In addition, seven fossil crania from Africa were also examined to test the alternate hypothesis of an African center for modern human origins. The results of the taxonomic assessment of these fossils aligned them with Homo erectus, though several features were noted which would indicate that these hominids were more derived than is typical for this species. Furthermore, both the morphological and craniometric examinations showed the Ngandong specimens to be remarkably dissimilar to the modern humans from Oceania. Instead, the two groups of modern humans were found to be quite homogeneous, which is consistent with the notion of a single origin for modern Homo sapiens. In addition, the African fossils demonstrated a higher degree of morphological similarity to both modern human groups, which would appear to support the hypothesis of an African center for the origin of modern humans. These findings would imply that the Ngandong hominids were members of a more advanced, late-surviving population of Homo erectus that went extinct when modern people invaded the region from elsewhere.
Durband, Arthur C., "The Ngandong of fossil hominids : a morphometric analysis of the cranial base and its implications for the origins of modern humans" (1997). Graduate Research Theses & Dissertations. 6023.
xiv, 201 pages
Northern Illinois University
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