Researchers say they finally have an age estimation of the youngest known remains of Homo erectus, which is typically deemed as an ancestor of the human species.
The fossilized skull elements and other bones were unearthed on Java, an Indonesian island, back in the 1930s. Estimating their age has been a scientific difficulty, and a large range has been suggested by several pieces of research.
According to a report published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, experts imply that the remains are between 108,000 and 117,000 years old. Scientists utilized five separate dating methods on sediments and fossil animal bones from the region, mixing 52 age measurements for the assay. This project took a total of 13 years to reach an end.
“I don’t see any way to date this site more thoroughly,” said paleoanthropologist Russell Ciochon of the University of Iowa, an author of the paper.
Most Extended Presence of a Homo Species
H. erectus emerged in Africa approximately 2 million years ago and dispersed widely in the continent, as well as in Asia, and probably Europe. It got to Java over 1.5 million years ago, and the new estimates suggest it perished at least 35,000 years before the arose of Homo sapiens.
“Uncertainty of the age of the Ngandong Homo erectus beds has prevented us from accurately assessing the relationship of these early humans to other human species,” said Jon-Paul Zonneveld, a sedimentology and paleontology scientist at the University of Alberta who co-authored the research.
H. erectus may have been condemned on Java due to the climate change that transformed its open forest settings into a rain forest, as per Ciochon. Even so, it definitely existed longer on Earth than any other genus on the ‘Homo’ division of the evolutionary record.
Susan Anton, a New York University anthropologist who wasn’t a part of the team, named the dating attempt ‘heroic,’ but said that the reported age is somehow too narrow. She would have preferred a period of fewer than 550,000 years old to over 100,000 years old.
That is, at least, what she and co-authors suggested in research published back in 2011.