Monday, November 4, 2013

Sangiran Early Man Site

Java has three UNESCO World Heritage sites: Prambanan, Borobudur, and sort of the ugly stepsister, Sangiran Early Man Site. It is historically extremely important--here's UNESCO on the subject:
Excavations here from 1936 to 1941 led to the discovery of the first hominid fossil at this site. Later, 50 fossils of Meganthropus palaeo and Pithecanthropus erectus/Homo erectus were found – half of all the world's known hominid fossils. Inhabited for the past one and a half million years, Sangiran is one of the key sites for the understanding of human evolution.
I am the sort of person who reads books on the Neanderthals for fun, so of course I was anxious to go. And I really enjoyed being able to learn more about these early hominid species.
Homo Erectus in his native habitat: I thought they made his face look a bit Indonesian. What do you think?
My favorite exhibits were the very well-done facial reconstructions of various hominids, based on their skulls found at the site.
Face from the past
This is the "hobbit" found on Flores in 2003
Even Erectus was pretty little: here's R (approx. 3 feet) for scale
The museum has numerous other exhibits as well: it is quite large (three stories).
Our ancestors were pin headed! Look how big R's head is in comparison.
R checking out the ancient cattle fossils
Ancient "croco" was a hit
Took this one because my dad used to work for the guy doing the stone-knapping (the photos are really old)
Overall the museum design is not grade-A
There's also a nearby view point, from which you can see the general area where the fossils were found. It isn't marked at all though so is fairly uninformative.
Building is the museum
For most people, the site will be probably be a bit underwhelming. It's basically just a large museum out in the country (meaning that getting there is a minor hassle: it's not very far in space, but due to horrible Indonesian traffic/roads it can take a while). Most of the text is in Indonesian, and the displays are a bit uneven (some really quite good, other pretty dated).

On the day I visited, it was pretty crowded nonetheless, with solely Indonesian tourists. So there's a variety of tourist facilities, including many souvenir shops and cheap restaurants (in fact we ate lunch there). We enjoyed our visit: those who are not archaeology buffs (or children of those who are) could probably give it a miss, however.

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