The ancestor of humans, Homo erectus, first appeared about 2 million years ago and is thought to have died out almost 300,000 years ago,media New Atlas reported. But now, an international team of scientists has discovered the species’ last site in Indonesia. Scientists believe Homo erectus could have died 108,000 years ago.
Homo erectus was one of the earliest success stories of human ancestors. The ancient humans, who appeared in Africa about 2 million years ago, were among the first human species to leave the continent and enter Asia and Europe. It is thought to have disappeared about 300,000 years ago and evolved into other species, leading to Neanderthals, Denisovas and modern humans.
But now, a new study has identified the last surviving Homo erectus site on the Indonesian island of Java. The Ngandong site is rich in fossil bones, including 12 skull caps and two shinbones from Homo erectus. The team managed to test the bones for years and found they were younger than expected.
The researchers used a range of different dating techniques, including uranium dating, on the bones of Homo erectus and other animals at the site. This gave them 52 separate age estimates, creating a very consistent window between 108,000 and 117,000 years ago.
Russell Ciochon, co-author of the study, said: “This site means the last appearance of Homo erectus. We can’t say exactly the date of the extinction, but we can confirm the date of the last occurrence. This time frame means that the Homo erectus and the Floridians (the so-called Hobbit) and the Luzonpeople of the northern Philippines may have lived in the same period.
Michael Westaway, author of the study, said: “Based on Ngandong’s new age estimates, the Homo erectus and the Denisovas may have overlapped in the area, or met at least some time a hundred thousand years ago. This could mean that in places like Ngandong, some of the unique features already recognized in the fossil ized skulls of the late Homo erectus may actually be the result of a hybridization of two ancient groups, Homo erectus and Denisova. “
The study was published in the journal Nature.