Dubois was convinced that this was Darwin’s “missing link” in the evolution of man. Today, scientists recognize that prehistoric “Java Man” and the “Peking Man” are members of the species “Homo erectus”, direct ancestors of modern homo sapiens and inhabited the earth between 1.7 million to 250,000 years ago. Scientists also report that 60 individuals have been found in the districts of Sragen and Karanganyar, which together comprise more than 50% of such fossils found around the world.
Sangiran was recognized by UNESCO in 1996 as World Heritage Site, next to Indonesia’s temples of Borobudur and Prambanan also located in Central Java.
Because of its proximity to the city of Solo, taxis or cars may be rented in Solo for the drive to the Sangiran museum.
What differentiates homo erectus from modern man is his thick, long and low skull, and a massive face with strongly protruding brow ridges. Today, the original discoveries are stored at the Bandung Geological Museum, while replicas may be viewed at the Sangiran Museum.
Further research revealed that “Java man” lived in caves or in open camps and was probably the first humanoids who used fire. He also used stone axes and hand-adzes, most of which were discovered by the Baksoka River near Pacitan.
During the Pleistocene period, the area seemed to have been at the bottom of the sea, but through pressure it has risen.
The small Sangiran Museum, which is located some 15 km north of the town of Solo (otherwise known as Surakarta), Central Java, shows a diorama on how prehistoric men might have lived. There are also fossil shells and animal bones, and enormous 4-meter tusks from a stegodon which is estimated to have measured 11 meters from head to tail.
Some 5 km west of the museum stands a three-storey viewing tower, from which one can see around the Sangiran valley. There is an audio-visual room on the evolution of man according to Darwin’s theory.
The Sangiran 48 square km archaeological site located by the Bengawan Solo river at the foot of Mt. Lawu is rich in prehistoric fossils, often lying exposed in the fields after a heavy storm. Today, with little real supervision, locals are only too eager to sell fossils, mostly seashells to visitors, although illegal.