Sangiran, Prehistoric Site (Early Man Site)

Human Evolution
Human Evolution

Sangiran is the important prehistoric sites that reveals the live of former human in evolution. In 1996, Sangiran has recognized by United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), as one of World Heritage Sites. To date, 100 individuals of Homo Erectus fossils had been found in Sangiran. This amount represents more than half the population of Homo Erectus fossils in the world. Homo Erectus itself is the missing link of human evolution between ape-like human to modern human.

Sangiran Museum

On Sangiran, lies a museum to display fossils of early humans, ancient animals, and other ancient relics. The grand opening of this museum is December 15, 2011. This place is very clean, luxurious, modern, air-conditioned, and professionally built.

The ancient relics is displayed in a modern, attractive, and interactive way. Items on display accompanied by any of the information in Indonesian language and English. Thus, while seeing the display of ancient fossils, tourists can also learn the history behind of the prehistoric life.

Sangiran Museum also has dioramas depicting the life model of ancient human living in Sangiran thousand years ago.

At the beginning of life

Initial formation of the Earth began with the explosion of a massive star, known as the Big Bang, 12 billion years ago. Fragments of the star forming other celestial objects including planets in our solar system. At the beginning of the formation, the earth is very hot with no life possibilities. As time went on, the earth begins to become cooler and the life of many creatures on earth begin to start as well. Formerly, there is only one continent on earth, called Gondwana. Because the earth layer was unstable, the Gondwana earth layer was also shifting which now forms 5 or 7 continents.

The earth itself has underwent geological changes over hundred millions of years. This is the history of Earth’s geology changes : Precambrian – Palaeozoic (Cambrian-Ordovician-Silurian-Devonian-Carboniferous-Permian) – Mesozoic (Triassic-Jurassic-Cretaceaous) – Cenozoic (Tertiary-Quarternary) – and finally, the Earth is now.

Geological evolution of the earth was followed by the evolution of life. At first, it was a creature that has a single cell lived on earth. Then, they evolved into other creatures, including humans. This beginning of life started with the reaction of the chemical elements on earth, and coupled with solar radiation and electric lightning. These early life forms are very simple such as blue green algae that do not require oxygen. The blue green algae produced oxygen that filled the Earth’s atmosphere, melting, changing the other chemical elements, and form the ozone layer. The oxygen production by this early creatures is then ultimately plays a major role in the emergence of other creatures on earth.

Ancient Volcano

Sangiran Museum was built on the land aged 1.8 million years old. This land was formerly the lava from the  eruptions of ancient Mount Lawu anyway.

At first the land is flat sedimentary layers. Because the endogenous energy of the earth and of the exogenous energy deposition itself, layers of sediment is uplifted and formed a dome. This dome raised a lot of ancient fossils that were previously stored deep inside of earth. And from where ancient life unfolding around Sangiran dome.

Ancient Humans and Primates

Prehistoric Man in Sangiran
Prehistoric Human activities

Human evolution is still a matter of discussion, but the evolution of the widely recognized is like this: Tertiary – Lemuria – Dryopithecus – Ramapithecus – Ardipithecus ramidus – Robustus Australopithecus – Australopithecus Africanus – Homo habilis – Homo Erectus – Neanderthals – Homo Sapiens

1. Ramapithecus

Ramapithecus is the most ancient species of primates with a height of less than 1 meter. The discovery of teeth and jaw fossils indicates that this species has the form of hominids (family of the human genus, chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas).

3. Australopithecus Boisei and Australopithecus Robustus

These two species of Australopithecus are ancient creatures that mave muscular body. While the slim version of Australopithecus is Australopithecus Africanus. Apparently, the difference is due to muscular-lean diet. Boisei and Robustus are plant-eating vegetarian ancient requires strong digestive system, and therefore contributes also to their bodies.

3. Australopithecus Africanus

Unlike the duo’s previous Australopithecus, this species is a plant, fruit, and meat-eating Australopithecus. This meat-eaating habits make Australopithecus Africanus as the early humans who first hunted big animals.

4. Homo Habilis

Homo Habilis was the first hominid who have a culture. They are able to make simple tools of stone in the valley of the Olduvai. So that their culture was referred to as Oldowan. It reminds me of the Flintstones’ stone tools.

5. Homo Erectus

Homo Erectus Sangiran
Homo Erectus Fossil

Homo Erectus is the world’s major ancient human explorers. The species is capable of spreading across the world and able to adapt well in the climate of Pleistocene.

In Indonesia, Homo Erectus is experienced three times in the evolution; Archaic Homo erectus (lived 1.5 million years ago), Typical Homo Erectus (live 0.9 to 0.3 million years ago), and Progressive Homo Erectus (live 0.2 -0.1 million years ago). An Archaic type has a brain capacity of 870cc and the fossils are found in Sangiran and Perning (Mojokerto). A typical type has a brain capacity of 1000cc and the fossils are found in Sangiran, Trinil (Ngawi), Kedungbrubus (Madison), Patiayam (Ghost), and Semedo (Tegal). The Progressive type has the largest brain capacity of 1000cc and the fossils are found outside of Sangiran, namely in Ngandong (Blora), Sambungmacan (Sragen), and Selopura (Ngawi).

Megantropus Palaeojavanicus, Pithecanthropus Erectus, Robustus Pithecanthropus, and Pithecanthropus Soloensis are now included in one category, Homo Erectus. Only Homo Erectus in Africa were able to evolve into Homo Sapiens, while Homo erectus in Indonesia faced extinction due to environmental changes. That’s why this Homo Erectus is also called Early Java Man because they are the first residence on the island of Java before the current Javanese population exist.

6. Cro Magnon

Cro-Magnon were the first artists to work in the form of cave paintings, carving, and sculpture.

7. Homo Sapiens
This species is a modern man today who has a great development, have a high intelligence, and capable of creating civilization and technology. The ancient of this human species existed in Sangiran 100,000 years ago.

8. Homo floresiensis

The name of this extinct early humans is derived from the island of Flores, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. Homo Floresiensis were inhabitating Flores as well. This ancient human is also known as Homo floresiensis, or flo or hobbits because the size is stunted.

Ancient Animals

Prehistoric Animal Fossil
Ancient Hippopothamus

1.Ancient Sea Animals

Nowadays, Sangiran is located very far from the sea. Even the location was in the middle of mainland Java. However, in Sangiran are found the fossils of ancient marine animals. Well … I still wonder why these marine animals lived in the middle of the mainland which is now located faraway from the sea.

2. Ancient Sangiran Elephant

There are three types of elephants in Sangiran, Mastodon, Stegodon, and Elephas. Mastodon is the most primitive elephant in Sangiran with long tusks. Similarly, Stegodon’s ivory was also very long ivory with a curved shape.  While Elephas is modern elephants with a short ivory. Elephas form is similar to today’s elephant.

3. Sangiran Crocodile

Crocodiles that ever lived in Sangiran are crocodiles in the family of Crocodylidae and Gavialidae. Example of a species of crocodile from the families who once inhabited the Sangiran is Gavialis Bengawanensis.

4. Ancient Horned Animals

These animals include ancient bull (Bibos Paleosondaicus), ancient deer (Cervus Hippelaphus), and ancient buffaloes (Bubalus Paleokarabau). These horned animals lived between 700,000-300,000 years ago.

5. Ancient Tiger

Vast savanna grasslands in Sangiran was a habitat for ancient tigers (Panthera Tigris). The form is not much difference with the modern tiger.

6. Ancient Rhino

Ancient Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) also inhabited the meadows in Sangiran 700,000 years ago. The name reminds me of the endangered one-horned rhinoceros in Ujung Kulon.

7. Ancient Pig

Ancient pig (Sus sp.) is very similar to wild boar. They have fangs sticking up very long.

8. Ancient Hippopotamus

Ancient Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus sp. And Hexaprotodon) lived about 1, 2 million years ago in Sangiran.

I still wonder why there was so many animals in Sangiran similar to the animals lived in Africa.

Ancient Relics

Ancient human relics at Sangiran includes massive and non-massive stone tools. Large equipments are used for heavy work such as cutting wood/bone, while small appliances are used for light work such as slicing, cutting, and so on.

These tools are made in two ways. The first is by hitting the equipment directly to the stones, bones, and woods. The second is by means of an intermediary such as bone, horn, or wood that is placed on the surface of the ground and then hit them with a stone.

Human and Ape/Monkey Differences

Difference between human and monkey ape
Differences between human and monkey/ape

1. Apes/monkey can only walk upright with the resting on their hand. While, the concave-shaped palm feet are used to hang themselves from the branches of the trees. So, the apes could not stand long with only using both feet. While the man can walk on two feet, and even run on two feet without the aid of ground-touching hand.

2. Ape and mokey have bow palms with the thumb is not free to move. This is very useful for grasping, climbing, and support the body. In contrast, humans have a free thumb to move that can be used to hold many kind of tools perfectly.

3. Monkey’s or ape’s brain volume is about 400cc, while the volume of the human brain is around 1400 cc. The shape of human skulls forehead is tend to be vertical, while the ape/monkey tend to be horizontal. This makes human have more capabilities than the apes, for example in terms of communicating.

4. Monkey larynx is rather high so that they can breathe while swallowing. Pharynx cavity is resulting limited sound. In contrast, humans have a lower throat which made him unable to breathe while swallowing. But, human-generated sound was very diverse.

5. Apes and monkeys have very concave U-shaped jaws, whereas the human have wider bow-shaped jaws.

Why Ancient Human Bodies Formed Fossils and Still Be Up to Now?

When living things die, all the parts of their body except their bones, are broken. Bone remains are then buried in soil sediment. With the pressures and high temperatures, the pores of the bones are filled by minerals such as silica which then makes the bone becomes like a stone called fossil.

The Archaeologists

These are the contributors of the revealing prehistoric human life in Sangiran.

1. Raden Saleh

He is not an archaeologists actually. Initially, a painter Raden Saleh was exhibiting his collection of ancient animal fossils from Sangiran to those Europeans collectors who then invited the curiosity of European scientists. The scientists were then coming to Sangiran to excavate and to examine the fossils.

2. B.D van Rietschoten

These researchers found fossils of early humans in Wajak, Tulungagung known as Homo Wadjakensis in 1888.

3. Eugene Dubois

In 1887-1891, a doctor from the Netherlands found Homo Erectus or  Pithecantropus Erectus fossils in Kedungbrubus and Trinil.

4. G.H.R von Koenigswald

Assisted by other experts, Koenigswald, the German Paleontologist is again found fossils of Homo Erectus, formerly known as Pithecanthropus Soloensis, Pithecantropus Mojokertensis, and Megantropus Palaeojavanicus (Archaic Homo Erectus).

There are also stories of other luminaries in the field of human evolution, such as Gregor J. Mendel, Charles Darwin, Ernst Haeckel, etc in Sangiran Museum.


Sangiran, Solo Surakarta, Central Java, Indonesia Maps
Sangiran/Solo (A) from Jakarta (Green Line), Kuala Lumpur (Red Line), and Singapore (Blue Line). Click the picture to Enlarge

Sangiran is located in Kalijambe or Gemolong, Sragen, Central Java Province, Indonesia. It is situated about 17 kilometers to the north of the city of Solo/Surakarta.

To reach Sangiran, it is better to go to Solo City or Surakarta first. Solo/Surakarta is the nearest big city to get there. To get Solo/Surakata, you can use train or bus from Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Semarang, Malang, Jogja/Yogyakarta. Alternatively, you can go to Solo/Surakarta via airplane from Jakarta (Garuda Indonesia, Batavia Air, Sriwijaya Air, and Lion Air), Kuala Lumpur (Air Asia), and Singapore (Silk Air). After reaching Solo/Surakarta, the trip then can be continued to Sangiran.

How To Get There

Sangiran Map
Sangiran (B) from Solo (A) (click to enlarge)

From Tirtonadi Bus Terminal, Solo City, take a straight road north to Purwodadi. Solo has signpost pointing the way to the Sangiran. So, no need to worry of lost, let alone keep a straight path following the sign.

Route: Solo (from Tirtonadi bus terminal to Nusukan or Kapten Pierre Tendean Street) – Highway Sol0 to Purwodadi – Gondangrejo – Kalijambe – Sangiran.
It is recommended to rent a car or motorcycle in Solo City/Surakarta to reach the Sangiran site for convenience purpose.

Sources: Sangiran Archaeological Museum

For Complete Pictures of Ancient Human and Animal Fossils in Sangiran