Site type:
Open air
Site function:
-7.33, 110.97
Date range max:
900,000 Bp
Date range min:
700,000 Bp
Homo, Homo erectus
Time periods:
Calabrian, Pleistocene
Calvaria Sangiran II (D)

Calvaria Sangiran II (D)

Sangiran is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Central Java, Indonesia. It is one of the key sites for the understanding of human evolution that illustrates the development of Homo sapiens sapiens, over two million years from the Lower Pleistocene to the present through understanding fossils and artefactual material that it has produced. It became famous after the discovery of Homo erectus remains and associated stone artifacts (Sangiran flake industry) in the 1930s. It also yields important archaeological occupation floors dating back to the Lower Pleistocene [1].


Age MinAge Max
Sangiran 17Skull700000800000
Sangiran 2Cranium900000900000


The Sangiran dome is located in the central part of Java volcanic island, 12-20 km north of Surakarta city, in the wide sedimentary basin of the Solo axial depression. It is surrounded by the Merapi, Merbabu, and Lawu stratovolcanoes [2]. This eroded anticlinal dome displays about 2.4 million years long history of the area. It pictures the long (and repetitive process of the recession of the sea, deposition in the basin of sediments coming from the rising neighboring hills (Kendeng Hills, Southern Mountains), and also the main phases of volcanic activity (e.g. Gunung, Lawu). Numerous fossils, including Homo erectus, and animals, are found throughout its layers, illustrating dispersals from continental Asia and periods of isolation when Java was separated from the continent by the sea [3][4]

Sangiran site covers an area of about 56 km2 [5]. Progressively younger units are exposed from the central to the outer part of the dome structure [2]. It is one of the most productive sites in palaeoanthropology, producing more than 100 hominin specimens [6][7].

Sangiran was first investigated by Dutch palaeoanthropologist Eugène Dubois in 1883, but his preliminary fieldwork did not yield many fossils and he eventually shifted his attention to Trinil and East Java where he found the first-ever Homo erectus (then Pithecanthropus erectus) fossils [8]. In 1934, anthropologist Gustav Heinrich Ralph von Koenigswald started to examine the area. And in 1937, he found Sangiran 2, which is a fossilized upper cranium of a Homo erectus (erectus). About more than 100 hominin fossils, including those of the Meganthropus palaeojavanicus have since been found [9][10][11][7].

In 1977, the Indonesian government designated an area of 56 km2 around Sangiran as a Protected Cultural Area. A local site museum and conservation laboratory was set up in 1988. In 1996, Sangiran Early man Site became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And the current museum and visitors’ center was opened on December 15, 2011 [9].

The exposed Plio-pleisocene sediments are divided into four units. The marine Puren (Kalibeng) Formation lies at the base, overlain by the Sangiran (Pucangan) Formation, consisting of shallow marine to lagoonal sediments below lacustrine sediment. The Sangiran Formation is overlain by the Bapang (Kabuh) Formation, and further by the Pohjajar (Notopuro) Formation. The upper two formations are primarily fluviatile sediments intercalated with many layers of pumice, volcanic ash, and lahar [12]. Between the Sangiran and Bapang Formations, a calcified conglomerate called the Grenzbank is frequently found. The majority of the hominid remains are from the Bapang Formation while more archaic fossils were from the Sangiran Formation [13][14].



Although numerous dating studies have been conducted at this site, the accepted date of the earliest hominin migration is controversial [7]. Systematic investigation of the Sangiran’s chronostratigraphy was first conducted in the late 1970s to early 1990s, including fission-track dating and magnetostratigraphy analysis, which suggested a hominin time span of ~0.8 to 1.1 Ma [15][16] or possibly ~1.3 Ma [17]. However, in 1994 a substantially older 40Ar/39Ar date of 1.66 Ma was reported for pumices presumed to overlie the two allegedly oldest hominin remains (Sangiran 27 and 31) [18]. This date has been questioned, but Larick et al. [19] reported a series of hornblende 40Ar/39Ar dates that supported the older chronology and placed the Sangiran hominin-bearing sequence from >1.5 to ~1.0 Ma.  The widely cited age of >1.5 Ma derives from a date of 1.51 ± 0.08 Ma [19].

The above dates are divided between two opposing chronological frameworks. The “older” chronology (from between 1.7 and 1.6 Ma to 1 Ma) versus the “younger” chronology (from between 1.3 and 1.1 Ma to between 0.7 and 0.6 Ma) [7]. A recent study using a combination of fission-track and uranium-lead dating points to the earliest presence of  Homo erectus in Sangiran at 1.3 Ma (or <1.5 Ma) [6]. The dates from this study provide important evidence in support of the “younger” chronology. On the other end, the hominid last occurrence at Sangiran is at 0.79 Ma [12].


Cited References

  1. 1.

    UNESCO Sangiran Early Man Site

    UNESCO World Heritage Convention

  2. 2.

  3. 3.

    Legacy of the Islands. the PREHsea Project Exhibition Catalogue

    Managing Prehistoric Heritage in Southeast Asia (PREHSEA)

  4. 4.

  5. 5.

  6. 6.

  7. 7.

  8. 8.

  9. 9.

  10. 10.

  11. 11.

    Ein neuer Pithecanthropus-Schadel

    Proceedings of the Section of Sciences Koninklijke Nederlandsche Akademie van Wetenschappen 41 (2) (in German)

  12. 12.

  13. 13.

  14. 14.

  15. 15.

  16. 16.

    Quaternary Geology of the Hominid Fossil Bearing Formations in Java

    Special Publication No. 4. Geological Research and Development Centre

  17. 17.

  18. 18.

  19. 19.

This page was last edited on November 10, 2022 at 10:37:17 UTC