Prehistoric people in Indonesia

In the discussion about pre-historic people, you will study various species of humans who lived in the period.

Pre-historic human species in Indonesia

People who lived in pre-historic times have now turned to fossils. The human fossils which have been found in Indonesia consist of several kinds. This was first known because of the coming of some European experts who were interested in studying human fossils in Indonesia.

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The first human fossil which was first found originated from Trinil, East Java. It was found by Eugene Dubois, so it attracted other researchers to come to Java to do similar studies. The next study of the human fossils was conducted by GRH Von Koeningswald, Ter Har, and Oppenoorth as well as F. Weidenrech. They managed to discover human fossils at Sangiran and Ngandong, in the valley of River Bengawan Solo.

Based on the finding, Von Koeningswald divided Diluvium/Pleistocene period in Indonesia into 3 layers, lower Pleistocene/Jetis layer, Middle Pleistocene/Trinil layer, and Upper Pleistocene/Ngandong layer.

Studies of human fossils were not only done by European scientists, but also Indonesian scientists, such as Prof. Dr. Sartono, Prof. Dr. Teuku Jacob, Dr. Otto Sudarmadji, and Prof. Dr. Soejono.

The studies were conducted at Sangiran and the valley of river Bengawan Solo. Based on the results of the studies, the kinds of ancient humans living in Indonesia could be identified. To learn more about them, please read the following description.

1. Meganthropus

As stated earlier, Von Koeningswald found a human skull at Sangiran Village in 1941. The Skull found included a lower jaw bone and teeth which showed that the human had strong teeth and large molars.

Koeningswald named the finding Meganthropus Paleojavanicus, which means the oldest giant man of java. It was assumed that the fossil lived approximately 2 – 1.5 million years ago and originated from Jetis layer. Compare this Meganthropus with another fossil as discussed below.

2. Pithecanthropus/Homo erectus

The study by Eugene Dubouis in Java, exactly at Trinil, Ngawi in 1890 found jawbones, then in 1891 he found a skull and in 1892 a left thigh bone. The fossils were then reconstructed by Dubuois and named Pithecanthropus Erectus, which means an ape man that walks upright.

Now the fossil is called Homo Erectus from Java. Homo Erectus is estimated to live approximately 1.5 million – 500.000 years ago and originated from the middle Pleistocene or Trinil layer. Now is it clear to you that Homo Erectus was younger than Meganthropus Paleojavanicus?

At first, scientists considered that E. Dubouts’ finding was not included in the line of descendants, but after Von Koeningswald found another fossil from Jetis layer/lower.

Pleistocene, all scientists admitted that the fossils found by Von Koeningswald were older than Homo erectus that was found by E. Dubouis. To give you a clearer picture of Homo Erectus, please study the reconstructed fossils of Homo Erectus found by Dubouis in figure 1.7.

3. Homo Sapiens

Homo Sapiens is a species of old humans that had a body shape quite similar to the body of today’s humans. They already had similar characteristics to present-day humans. Their life was simple and they lived nomadically.

The Homo Sapiens fossils found in Indonesia consisted of fossils found in Ngandong, Blora in Sangiran, and in Sambung Macan, Sragen, the valley of River Bengawan Solo between 1931 – 1934. After the fossils were studied by Von Koeningswald and Weidenreich, they were named Homo Sapiens Soloensis (Homo Soloensis).

The human fossil found at Wajak (Tulung Agung) in 1889 by Van Reitschotten was then studied by Eugene Dubouis, and was named Homo Sapiens Wajakensis.

The sites where the two fossils were found belonged to the Ngandong layer or Pleistocene layer, and the people were assumed to live approximately 100,000 – 500,000 years ago. For information about the finding sites of Indonesian ancient people, study the following map.

Read also: Migration of peoples to Indonesia

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