Ancient Man Java Man Homo Erectus Part 2

About the search for Java Man or homo erectus a possible early ancestor of man and link to the apes, reaction of the community to the discovery.


JAVA MAN (Homo erectus erectus)

Dubois exhibited the bones at scientific meetings in Paris, London, Berlin, and other European cities, and scientists, instead of praising him, asked him tough questions: How did he know the bones were from the same time period? (Later chemical tests said they were, but such tests did not exist then.) Why was the thighbone so modern, the skull so primitive? Humiliated and furious, Dubois, his paranoia in full flower, hid the fossils in a chest under his dining room floor and made no more attempts to discuss them with his colleagues.

By 1918, spurred by other paleontological discoveries, interest arose in Dubois's bones, but Dubois, soured by his past experiences, turned people away, even the presidents of the Museum of Natural History in New York and the Dutch Academy of Sciences. Finally Ales Hrdlicka, curator of physical anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., received permission from Dubois to examine and exhibit the fossils.

Then Peking Man, a very close relative of Java Man, was found. Unlike Java Man, whose bones had been moved by shifting tides, he was surrounded by his tools and relatives, enough evidence to give some very good clues about the way he, and by extension Java Man, had lived. Dubois should have been happy, but he was not. He refused to take the Chinese excavations seriously. It was even said that he refuted his earlier classification of Java Man as an ape-man and called it a giant gibbon, but we now know that this story was fabricated by an alienated fellow paleontologist.

German paleontologist G. H. R. von Koenigswald went in 1937 to Sangiran, near the site where Java Man had been found, to search for further evidence to back up Dubois. Daunted by a huge field of rubble, he offered natives 10 cent for each fossil they could find, an offer he later regretted when the natives brought him a skull they had smashed into pieces to make more money. Koenigswald pieced the fragments together and found it was a new Pithecanthropus skull. He sent the news and a photograph to Dubois, who published the photograph and called the discovery a fake.

Java Man is now classified as Homo erectus erectus, of the same genus as modern man. He lived about 2 million years ago. He had a heavy skull which contained a brain only slightly smaller than ours. He might have been able to speak. His teeth had both human and ape characteristic. Though no tools were found near his bones, the chances are that he used them to kill small mammals and the young of bigger ones--elephants, hippos, deer, and antelope. He also ate nuts, berries, and roots. His chances of living past the age of 40 were about one in five.

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